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Category — Hydro power

Bulgaria’s micro-hydro power surge

Kieran Cooke


Unobtrusive, but not always uncontroversial: The micro-hydro plant at Borovets
Image: Kieran Cooke

Bulgaria, one of the European Union’s more recent members, is in the midst of a micro-hydro boom. The hydro plants form part of an overall EU energy package which sets a binding target of achieving 20% of energy from renewables by 2020 in order to tackle carbon emissions and climate change. The plants are controversial, with allegations that they are not properly licensed and monitored – and that they threaten the environment.

Dimitar Lobutov, an entrepreneur investing in a micro-hydro plant here, has little time for environmentalists.

“They are the biggest racketeers in the country – they make all manner of accusations but can’t prove anything”, says Lobutov. “It’s people like me who are developing Bulgaria – the greens just do nothing but complain or try and sabotage our efforts.”

Lobutov, among other things a property developer and importer of electrical equipment, stands proudly by his soon-to-be-completed 1,300 kilowatt micro-hydro power plant in a beautiful narrow mountain valley about 30 miles from Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. Just down the road is one of the country’s main ski resorts. There is thick snow: the clear waters of the river Iskar flow nearby.

Micro-hydro is very much in fashion in Bulgaria, with plants being built on rivers throughout the country. They are relatively simple to construct and operate: pipes are laid perhaps two kilometres upriver, and water is then fed through the pipes, to flow down and drive turbines at a power station.

Electricity generated is sold to the national grid. Investors like Lobutov – he says he’s invested more than two million Bulgarian lev (€1 m/US $1.375 m) in his plant – are guaranteed a set price from the Government, in his case over a period of 15 years. [Read more →]

March 31, 2014   No Comments