Heating Schools with Waste Geothermal Water for Cleaner Air in Sokobanja

March 1, 2024
Photo: Vladan Iličković

Sokobanja, 29 February 2024 – With the support of the European Union and the Ministry of Environmental Protection, and in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Municipality of Sokobanja replaced the old coal boiler in the common premises of two local schools with a heating system using waste geothermal water from the spa complex. The transition to this renewable source of energy has substantially improved the quality of air for both the school children and all the citizens and visitors of this famous spa resort. The concentrations of toxic gases, including carbon-dioxide and carbon-monoxide, as well as of the PM 2.5 and PM 10 suspended particles have been particularly reduced.

Today’s official presentation of the new heating system in “Branislav Nušić” high school and “Mitropolit Mihailo” primary school in Sokobanja, has also been attended by the Minister of Environmental Protection, Irena Vujović.

“This is a fantastic example of how we can use thermal water for heating, primarily as an important measure of improving air quality. More than 1000 pupils of these two schools will have purer air and better environment. Also, what is particularly important here is that the thermal water is reused, which is in line with one of the most important principles of the Green Agenda, i.e. circular economy,” said Vujović.

She added that this project was worth more than RSD 23 million, 16.6 million of which was contributed by the Ministry, while the remaining part was secured by the European Union. Furthermore, she invited other local self-government units with thermal potentials to apply for funding with their own projects.

Nicola Bertolini, Head of Cooperation of the Delegation of the European Union (EU) in Serbia said during his visit that Sokobanja was a good example of an environment-preserving municipality.

“The European Union is already funding the water-supply system in Sokobanja, while soon, also with our support, a system for waste water processing will be made, since the wellbeing of environment and citizens are among our priorities. A clear sign that Sokobanja is on the right path is the fact that this new heating system which uses waste geothermal water is a result of the partnership between the EU, Ministry of Environmental protection, the Municipality and UNDP,” added Bertolini.

Research shows that Serbia has a great geothermal potential at its disposal, with more than 300 geothermal springs. Should these be used in making energy, they would be able to supply heating to a quarter of the country, with significantly lower expenses and benefits for people’s health and the environment.

“This innovation by the Municipality of Sokobanja could be also implemented in other locations in Serbia where geothermal springs do exist. For example, the Government of Serbia and UNDP are exploring the possibility of using geothermal energy for the heating and cooling of public buildings in Belgrade, such as the Serbia Palace,” said Yakup Beris, UNDP Resident Representative. He invited all innovators to apply for the present Challenge for Innovative Solutions and thus join the green transition of Serbian economy and society.

The new, energy-efficient heating system will also result in substantial savings in the budget of the Municipality of Sokobanja.

“We decided to use geothermal water for the heating of the primary and secondary school, firstly to preserve environment and decrease pollutants in the air, but also for its energy efficiency, and we decreased the costs of heating for the two schools to two thirds of what had been spent with the old coal-based system,” explained Miodrag Nikolić, Sokobanja Mayor.

The heating based on the waste geothermal water from the spa complex in Sokobanja is one of 52 innovative, green solutions, with the total worth of USD 17 million, implemented all over Serbia within the project “EU for Green Agenda in Serbia”.

The project “EU for Green Agenda in Serbia” has been implemented by the United Nations Development Programme with the technical and financial support by the European Union, in partnership with the Ministry of Environmental Protection, and in cooperation with the Embassy of Sweden and the European Investment Bank (EIB), where additional funding has been provided by the governments of Sweden, Switzerland and Serbia.

Photo: UNDP Serbia