Local authorities in Croatia pursuing energy independence with geothermal projects

Bjelovar Local authorities in Croatia look to geothermal projects for achieving energy independence

Photo: Varaždin County


October 23, 2023






October 23, 2023





The City of Bjelovar in north Croatia is about to start exploratory drilling, aiming to obtain thermal energy for heating. Separately, a joint venture founded by nearby Varaždin County and the Municipality of Mali Bukovec identified the potential for the installation of a 16 MW geothermal power plant and 90 MW of thermal capacity. The local authorities aspire to achieve energy independence by using geothermal energy.

In addition to numerous private projects for the production of electricity and thermal energy from geothermal sources in Croatia, there are local authorities that are independently developing such investments or opting for public-private partnerships.

The government provided subsidies for such endeavors, so investors have been lining up over the past years in the sector. Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Davor Filipović said recently, after the completion of the latest tender for exploration permits, that activating geothermal potentials is as important as the floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal at the island of Krk.

Activating geothermal potentials is as important to the Government of Croatia as the country’s floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal

The City of Bjelovar said it signed a contract with domestic firm Crosco to make the Korenovo GT-1 exploratory geothermal well. It is worth EUR 3.5 million excluding value-added tax. The goal is to introduce geothermal heating.

“We expect to find warm water at a depth of up to 1,500 meters, with a temperature of 70 to 80 degrees Celsius, with which we plan to heat the Veliko Korenovo business zone. In the future, we expect five. six more such geothermal boreholes on the entire territory of our city, so that we can heat residential structures and public institutions,” Mayor Dario Hrebak stated.

Works near Bjelovar to start next month

The works are scheduled to begin in November and expected to finish in the early spring of 2024. The aim is for Bjelovar to become an energy-independent city within 10 years.

City-owned firm Terme Bjelovar is the main investor in the turnkey project. The Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development issued the license in 2021 for the area of 25 square kilometers.

The interval of the target is 888 to 1,176 meters below ground, the documentation shows. The Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds provided a grant of EUR 1.3 million. Bjelovar also initiated the procedure to change the urban planning documentation for Korenovo. It earmarked EUR 26,500 in its spending plan for the purpose.

Geothermal water source of 142 degrees identified near Varaždin

Geothermal waters of up to 80 degrees are normally used in industrial facilities, food dryers, greenhouses and spas while warmer sources enable the generation of electricity. Croatia still has only one geothermal power plant – Velika 1 in Ciglena near Bjelovar.

The Varaždin County, also in the country’s north, reached another milestone in the same field. Exploration has been completed at the Kutnjak-1 site, worth EUR 2.5 million, also with Crosco as the contractor.

Crosco is the contractor both in Bjelovar and Mali Bukovec

The results showed there is geothermal water of 142 degrees 2.4 kilometers under the ground. The project was launched by Bukothermal, a company in which the county holds 85% while the Municipality of Mali Bukovec controls the remaining stake.

Kutnjak-1 is located within the Lunjkovec-Kutnjak geothermal field, which spans 99 square kilometers. The Varaždin Country said all conditions are in place to build a 16 MW geothermal power plant.

The next steps are concept design and obtaining environmental terms, after which designing can begin. In addition to the power plant project, the regional authority is planning to tap into thermal energy capacity for greenhouses, and there is the possibility of utilization in the tourism sector, Prefect Anđelko Stričak revealed.

Bjelovar Varaždin Bukovec Lokalne samouprave Hrvatskoj geotermalnu energiju energetska nezavisnost
The Kutnjak-1 exploration well near Mali Bukovec in Varaždin County

Project is valued at EUR 50 million

Mayor of Mali Bukovec Darko Marković explained that the expected thermal energy capacity is 90 MW. He estimated that the construction of the geothermal power plant would start within two and a half years. Moreover, there is potential for more facilities of the kind, the county administration stressed. Representatives of the municipal government earlier expressed the belief that such capacities would be sufficient to make the Varaždin county energy independent.

The county administration highlighted the possibility of building several geothermal power plants and thermal energy facilities

“We need about EUR 50 million to implement and finalize the entire project. The design of the power plant and heating pipeline will soon begin, and at the same time we are initiating the activities aimed at more drilling and exploration on this exploitation field to completely utilize its potential,” Bukotermal’s head Alen Požgaj said.

The oil industry made two exploratory boreholes in the area in 1976 and 1969.

Of note, Prefect Anđelko Stričak led a delegation that just visited the town of Sárvár in neighboring Hungary, where they met the top management of Aquaprofit, a company active in the geothermal energy sector.

Geothermal energy is one of Turkey’s energy transition pillars

Municipal authorities in Southeastern Europe mostly invest in solar energy, given that photovoltaics and solar thermal technology are affordable and simple to use. In Romania there are some geothermal projects in advanced phases. The district heating company in Niš, Serbia’s third-largest city, is using one relatively shallow geothermal well, but it recently announced that it intends to pump water from an underground warm lake and heat a residential project currently under construction.

Groundwater with lower temperatures can be used for heating and cooling by deploying heat pumps.

Elsewhere in the region, only Turkey hosts geothermal power plants. Actually, it is one of the world’s biggest players in the sector. At the end of last year, Turkey had a whopping 1.7 GW installed. Investments in geothermal energy including a pilot project for a power plant are underway in several other Balkan states.

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