“Today we are launching – as far as I know – the biggest collective investment by a local community for the energy transition in Croatia. Citizens, but also the business and public sectors from the Cres-Lošinj archipelago are very interested in it. Our solar PV project will be implemented if we obtain the necessary permits and consents from the competent public institutions”, said Dr. Ugo Toić, President of the assembly of the Croatian energy cooperative Aspyrtides in 2021,at the very start of this endeavour. One year later, the project is off to a good start.
The bigger picture
After several successful initial examples of community-financed solar power plants in Croatia (Križevci Municipality, Kaštel Lukšić, etc.), the energy community virus has now crossed the sea. Located in the scenic Cres-Lošinj archipelago surrounded by the Adriatic Sea, the Croatian energy cooperative Aspyrtides was founded last year, in 2021. With its wide diversity of members, it is very unique in Croatia: it includes two municipalities, the town of Cres (3080 inh.) and the town of Mali Lošinj (8200 inh.), public institutions, associations, entrepreneurs and companies, as well as citizens. In total, it numbers 29 founders, of which 20 are citizens and 9 are legal entities. The cooperative’s first projects are the Filozići solar power plant with a nominal power of 500kW, and an integrated solar power plant on the roof of a kindergarten in Cres.
During the first months, all the cooperative’s members were busy working on the necessary feasibility studies, preparing the initial documentation, and negotiating the purchase of land. One year later, in 2022, the assembly of cooperative members unanimously decided to purchase the chosen plot and to build the Filozići solar power plant on it.
The solar energy Filozići project in a nutshell:
Fast fundraising through the crowd
The owner of the land, Anton Jedrječić, is himself a cooperative member and the initiator of the solar project. He decided to invest 20,000 euros as an additional cooperative share, making him the largest investor in this project so far. The cooperative assembly decided that the necessary funds needed for the land purchase would be collected from current and future cooperative members. The idea: encourage the local community to invest in it through a crowdfunding campaign that would last two months.
Instead of the anticipated two months, crowdfunding for the Filozići solar power plant lasted just three weeks raising more money than expected: The campaign aimed to collect 65,000 euros from the founders and new cooperative members in the first round. Due to the intense interest shown by residents of the Cres and Lošinj archipelago and several friends from the mainland, more than 100,000 euros of additional member contributions were collected in three weeks. During the campaign, 23 new members joined, increasing the total number of members to 58.
“We have been communicating for over a year about our idea of building a solar power plant in the north of the island. We always thought we’d finance it through a joint investment of citizens and island companies. Nonetheless, we were surprised by the speed of the reaction and the great interest to invest in the project”, said the cooperative manager Franjo Toić. He concluded that “citizens clearly want to become owners of at least part of the energy consumed on the island, and the energy cooperative is one ways they will be able to do so”.
As soon as all necessary funds were collected, the manager Toić and the land owner Jedrejčić signed a sale contract by which the cooperative became the new land owner. This was the first big step towards installing the solar panels.
The road providing access to the construction site soon will be built. When precisely it will be depends above all on how fast the Croatian State issues the necessary permits. In the meantime, this public-civil partnership is a fantastic adventure for all the people and entities involved, demonstrating the power of bottom-up community engagement.