Cyprus’ energy and environment profile is set to change, with the discovery of significant reserves of natural gas in the country’s offshore waters, and with the government’s commitment to a plan for the island to become the leading energy centre in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In December 2011, Noble Energy announced that a “world class” discovery of natural gas had been made in Cyprus’ Block 12 (‘Aphrodite’), 180 kilometres to the south of the island. Aphrodite’s reserves are estimated at around 7 trillion cubic feet (198 billion cubic metres) – enough to meet Cyprus’ domestic gas demand for around 100 years.
Furthermore, the Cyprus government in June 2012 announced plans to develop a natural gas export hub, with the potential to handle production from Cyprus, from Israel (where offshore reserves are being exploited), and from other countries in the region like Lebanon and Syria.
The development of the gas sector and the fast expansion of wind farms and photovoltaic facilities mean that the island will in the future, be virtually self-sufficient in terms of its energy needs – no longer importing expensive and environmentally unfriendly oil to run its electricity power stations.
Vassilikos Energy Centre
Meanwhile, Noble is in discussions with the Cyprus government on the technical and legal aspects of a project to building a sub-sea natural gas pipeline from the Aphrodite field to the southern shore of the island. The gas will come ashore at Vassilikos, where a 300 million euro import, storage and distribution terminal is under construction – a key part of what will become the Vassilikos Energy Centre. The jewel of the Vassilikos Centre will be a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant where Cypriot gas (along with gas from other regional producers) will be liquefied before being exported by ship.
Renewables on the Rise
The use of natural gas to fuel Cyprus' three power stations will give an enormous boost to the island's drive to be more environmentally efficient. But other moves in this direction are already under way. Renewable Energy Resources (RES) have the potential to contribute significantly to reducing the island's dependence on imported fuels, increasing security of energy supply, diversifying the energy balance and reducing environmental pollution.
Enjoying an average of 340 days of sunshine each year the island is in a strong position to build on its already high use of solar energy. Around 92 per cent of households are equipped with solar water heaters and 53 per cent of hotels have large systems of this kind. In its report on 2010, published in June 2011, the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ISTIF) said Cyprus was by far the highest user per capita of thermal heating in Europe, with a figure that was double that of its nearest rival.
Solar panels have successfully been installed in schools, governmental buildings and military camps, increasing the country's capacity in the PV sector to 1.1 MW. To date there have been 30 applications for financial support for the installation of PV systems of a total capacity of around 3MW.
First Large-scale PV Parks
Already four large PV parks have been erected a few kilometres from Nicosia, in the Orounta area. The 2,600 panels that generate 1,000,000 kWh prevent the dumping of about 900 tonnes of C02 into the atmosphere per year. Each park has a capacity of 150kWp, bringing the total for all four to 600kWp. In addition, the first-ever combined solar power and desalination plant is due to be constructed in Cyprus, following the success of a unique research project conducted by the island’s leading research institute on climate change, Cyprus Institute.