Bulgaria: Restrictions On Construction Of Photo-voltaic Parks On Agricultural Lands

Last Updated: 22 May 2011
Article by Stefana Tsekova and Mariya Mihaleva

Most renewable energy projects in Bulgaria are being developed on agricultural land. This land can be used for non-agricultural purposes, such as Renewable Energy plants, after a change of its designation pursuant to the Law on Protection of Agricultural Lands ("The Law"). The procedure usually requires three months and is completed with a decision for change of designation. Since it is relatively easy to achieve, project developers have been changing the designation of agricultural lands in anticipation of increasing investments in renewables without feasible investment intents.

In order to tackle this trend and, allegedly, to reserve the most fertile land for farming, in 2010 the Bulgarian Government proposed an amendment of the Law on protection of agricultural lands. The amendment banned development of renewables on certain categories of lands. However, the change of designation of the same lands for other purposes, such as resorts or industrial plants, remained unaffected thus raising questions whether the amendment intended to protect agriculture or only to restrict renewables. The amendment was adopted in principle at first reading by the Bulgarian Parliament but remained dormant for almost one year awaiting the second reading.

On 4 May 2011, the parliamentary committee in charge of the amendment approved a revised version of the amendment. Contrary to the general expectations, it is considerably less restrictive compared to the initially approved version as discussed below. Now, in order to become effective, the amendment needs approval at second reading by the Parliament and publication in the State Gazette. Considering that the new Renewable Energy Law completed these steps in two weeks (from 21 April to 3 May), the amendment of the Law might become effective as early as the beginning of June 2011.

Ban on development of photovoltaic parks on certain lands

The revised amendment imposes a ban on the development of photovoltaic parks on the most fertile lands. No change of designation will be allowed of agricultural lands from first to fourth category as well as on irrigated lands for construction of photovoltaic parks, except when they generate energy for own needs of the investor. This ban is in line with the objective of the newly adopted Renewable Energy Law to shift the development of photovoltaic parks to industrial areas and rooftop and façade wall installations as well as to smaller installed capacities.

Automatic expiration of the change of designation

Under the current law if the development of the project has not started within one year after the change of designation, the authorities are entitled to revoke the decision (which is rarely done in practice). According to the amendment the decision for change of designation will be invalidated automatically at the expiration of certain terms: (i) if the fee is not paid with three months after notice that the decision is issued; (ii) if no construction permit is requested within three years after the entry of force of the decision; or (iii) if the construction is not started within six years after the entry of force of the decision.

The pending procedures and the existing projects

Pending procedures will be completed according to the previous regime where the application either for designation of a site (first step of the procedure) or for change of designation are filed with the Ministry of Agriculture or the respective local directorate by the entry of force of this amendment. With regard to existing projects the decisions for change of designation issued under the previous regime will remain valid unless they have been revoked by the authorities by the date of entry of force of the amendment (as commented above). However, if within six years after the entry of force of the decision, the construction of the project still has not started, the decision will be invalidated automatically. For example, if an investor has changed the designation of a plot with the view to build a photovoltaic park in 2008 and no construction has started in 2011 but the authorities have not acted to revoke the decision, the decision will remain valid until 2014. If until then the construction of the photovoltaic park has not started, the decision will be invalidated automatically. Respectively, if the land in question falls within the scope of the above discussed ban, the repeated change of designation will not be allowed under the new regime.

Shifting powers within the administration

Under the current law the procedure for change of designation is generally administered on local level by the district directorates of agriculture except for cases of land with an area of more than 50,000 sqm, which are processed by the commission at the Ministry of Agriculture. The new regime envisages more a centralised approach concentrating all change of designation of lands from first to fourth category as well as on irrigated lands with the commission at the Ministry of Agriculture. Considering the capacity of the administration this might lead to overloading of the commission and, as a result , delays in processing the applications. In addition, the change of designation of land for large projects with area of more than 500,000 sqm on lands from first to fourth category as well as on irrigated lands will require a permission from the Council of Ministers. Under the previous regime such permission was necessary only in case of change of designation for municipal or state purposes of land with area of more than 100,000 sqm. The amendment increases this threshold but also expands the permission requirement to private projects.

Exception for underground cable lines

According to the amendment the construction of underground cable lines on agricultural lands will no longer require change of designation. The waiver of this requirement will enhance the upgrade of the grid as well as the construction of the connecting facilities and is viewed as one of the reasonable improvements of the law.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions