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Renewable energy in Monaco

Renewable energy sources are energies which are inexhaustible within a human timescale and derived from natural sources such as the sun, the wind, waterfalls, the sea, the heat of the Earth and plant growth.

Commonly known as "clean" or "green" energy sources, they produce very little waste or polluting emissions.

The best known renewable energy sources are solar and wind energy, but there are many others. For example, hydropower is the term used to describe energy which comes from water, including wave energy, tidal energy and energy from currents (hydrokinetic energy or hydroelectric dams). Biomass and geothermal energy are other examples.

What sources of renewable energy do we have in Monaco?

Here is a brief overview…

Solar energy: panels on our roofs

Let’s start with the best known, solar energy. In Monaco, it is possible to capture the energy from the sun in two ways: with solar photovoltaic  panels, which transform sunlight into electricity, and with solar thermal panels, which use the energy produced by the sun’s rays to heat water.

It is primarily solar photovoltaic panels that are found on building roofs in Monaco. Many of our schools, such as École du Parc and the Lycée Technique et Hôtelier, are equipped with such panels, for example. They are also found on residential buildings, such as Hélios and Jardins d’Apolline, and on office buildings like the SBM Offshore building in Fontvieille. All of these panels produce electricity which is consumed by the building to meet its energy needs like lighting.

There are also solar thermal panels on the outside of the Ecole St Charles building. These heat the water for the swimming pool. The Annonciade complex was fitted out with solar thermal panels in 2008 to heat and maintain the temperature of the water in the swimming pool.

To date, 18 buildings in Monaco have been equipped with solar PV or thermal panels, and the Principality intends to increase this number. Since 2008, the Government has offered grants for the installation of solar PV and thermal panels (Subsidies ). In June 2017, the Government also published an online solar resource map, which can be accessed by any Internet user and provides information on the solar PV production capacity of every roof in Monaco (www.cadastresolaire.mc ).

Thanks to our favourable weather, solar energy is one of the most promising renewables in Monaco, so it is vital that we take advantage of it!

Ocean thermal energy: seawater heat pumps

Another renewable energy source with strong potential that is already being well used in Monaco is the energy from the sea. While air temperature varies a lot according to season, the sea enjoys relatively stable temperatures at depth all year round.

Using heat pump technology, it is possible to draw heat or cold from seawater to warm or cool buildings, or to heat swimming pools. Buildings which take advantage of this form of energy need to consume electricity to operate the heat pumps, which then produce between three and four times more energy that they use.

The Optima PAC project, which was completed in Monaco in 2015, showed that heat pump technology did not have a harmful effect on the marine environment, and that it would be possible to further optimise its performance in the future.

Monaco was one of the first countries to develop the use of this type of energy along its coastline. The Principality installed its first seawater heat pump in 1963 at the Rainier III Outdoor Swimming Stadium to heat the water for the pool. The country now has more than 80 pumps.

Some of the buildings in Monaco which are heated or cooled using seawater heat pumps include the Grimaldi Forum, the Oceanographic Museum, the Rainier III Auditorium and the SBM buildings.

The Principality has plans to develop two ocean thermal energy loops to expand the use of this source of energy. Instead of having one seawater heat pump per building, these pumps will be linked to a water system circulating through pipes feeding several buildings, some of which may be further away from the coast. This will improve the efficiency of the technology, reduce costs and allow more buildings to benefit from this source of energy.

There are plans to develop one such loop in the Condamine district, and another in the Larvotto Discrict. This will provide a particularly attractive alternative for buildings currently heated using fuel oil, or which have air conditioning installed, providing significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the region of 80%. If buildings were to opt to switch to natural gas for heating in place of fuel oil, there would only be a 25% reduction in emissions. Ocean thermal energy loops are an important step on the path to energy transition.

Geothermal energy: probes in the ground to heat or cool buildings

Geothermal energy makes it possible to recover heat from the ground to warm buildings, or to cool buildings by injecting their surplus heat into the earth.

The potential for the use of geothermal energy in Monaco remains uncertain, because the temperature of the sub-soil in the country is lower than that found in some other countries with strong potential in this area, such as Iceland. Nonetheless, some buildings in Monaco have geothermal probes incorporated into their foundations and attach their heat pumps to them.

This allows surplus heat to be removed in order to cool some spaces without using a lot of energy (by replacing air conditioning, for example). It is a solution which can help to make buildings more energy efficient and which is used in, for example, the Tour Odéon, La Petite Afrique and Villa Engelin.

What about other renewable energy sources?

The Government is constantly exploring opportunities to develop new types of renewable energy in Monaco, for example wind power adapted to the urban environment, or wave energy. While their potential in Monaco remains to be proven, perhaps we will see new systems in future as research and development progresses here and around the world!

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