Authorities in Cyprus are changing the legal framework for photovoltaic systems to protect the environment and assure compliance with national and European law. Licensing is suspended as many projects are on arable land or they may harm ecosystems.
The Department of Environment told relevant ministries in Cyprus that it blocked the processing of applications for setting up solar power plants until a comprehensive spatial plan and an institutional frame are adopted. The regulatory body, which operates under the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment, said it found that many locations for the projects are in irrigated and fertile land and in protected areas.
Some investors plan to install photovoltaic units in places suitable for animal husbandry and quarries and, in numerous cases, the facilities may harm the ecosystem or geomorphology, the letter reveals, as reported by Philenews.
Such an approach would put the island republic in “serious danger” of breaching domestic and European law and the rulings of the European Court of Justice, the Department of Environment stressed and added it received 92 applications in the past two years, with more to come.
Strategic environmental assessment may take one year
As building costs for photovoltaics decline, an increasing number of projects are springing up in the European Union and environmentalists are calling for stricter rules for the protection of agricultural land and natural habitats.
An application for an 80 MW solar power plant is expected to be filed soon
The Ministry of Energy has started a tendering procedure for a strategic environmental impact assessment study for locations intended for renewable energy units, with the aim of aligning them with the law. The article notes the process may last another year.
Big projects can’t be approved under current rules
Applications for an 80 MW photovoltaic plant in Agios Ioannis Malountas and a 20 MW facility in Koutrafas, both in the Nicosia district, are expected to be filed soon, the department revealed and said they can’t be approved without changes in the legal framework.
Cyprus estimates it would need 750 MW in solar power plants by 2030.
The regulatory authority recently told Earthlight Park to reduce the area of its project in Sotira near Limassol to protect trees and other plants and narrow it to 7.5 MW from 11.1 MW. The firm must install the cables underground so that birds are protected and it won’t be allowed to pave the existing dirt roads or to build new ones. The site is adjacent to the Natura 2000 area of Paramaliou river.
Separately, many irregularities were found in a group of 11 projects with total capacity of 45.2 MW in Larnaca district. The cumulative effect for several of them that are adjacent to Natura 2000 protected areas wasn’t considered at all.