Velingrad (1)Climate and geography: Situated at 700-2100 m above the sea level, in Western Rhodope Mountain along valley of the Chepiska River, surrounding mountain relief, climate conditions are mountainous with average yearly temperature of 9°С. Due to the influence form the Mediterranean climate the winter is mild and the summer is not very hot. The volume of precipitation annually is about 554 litres/m². The weather is characterized with high solar radiation with an average annual number of 215 clear solar days which provides for solar thermal and PV potential. Forests cover 83 % of municipal territory and there are mainly coniferous woods (82 %) so the potential of wood waste biomass utilization is high. There are a large number of small rivers along the main rivers Chepisnka and Dospatska, and due to the mountain terrain with big denivelations there is potential fro small hydro power plants. There are many geothermal springs on the municipal territory which makes Velingrad a significant spa and health recreation centre. The biodiversity is high and there are 34 preserved ecological sites on the municipal territory.

Population: 25 settlements with 40 707 inhabitants in total, 26 000 of which live in the municipal centre Velingrad.

Infrastructure: there is a road network developed on municipal territory, crossed by the second-class international road E-84 that connects Greece, Macedonia and South-West Bulgaria with Upper Thrace and further to Turkey and Middle East.

There is a narrow-rail network developed. All settlements are centrally water and electricity supplied.

One of the biggest damps – Dospat and the biggest hydro power cascade in Bulgaria – Dospat-Vacha, are situated partially on the municipal territory but the power generation capacities (HPPs) are situated outside Velingrad Municipality.

Economy: The combination of mild climate, solar radiation and mountain forests together with hot mineral springs makes tourism an important economic sector in Velingrad Municipality. There are 32 hotels, 2 health recreation centers and 140 restaurants and leisure places only in the municipal centre – town of Velingrad as well as public mineral baths and 22 open-air and covered mineral pools. The geographic and climatic conditions favour eco-tourism, ski-tourism and hunting tourism. Another significant economic sector is wood logging and wood processing as well as some chemical industry and machine building. Wood processing accounts for 35 % of the total GDP of the municipality, 21 % are formed by agriculture, 19 % by trades and 6 % are formed by hotels and recreation facilities. The major part of the firms (75 %) functions in the service and tourism sector. Agriculture is mainly represented by animal breeding – sheep and cow breeding, poultry.

RES potential: There is high available potential for RES utilization in Velingrad Municipality in solar thermal and PV, waste wood biomass, geothermal power, small hydro power. There is untapped potential of Small HPPs as well as of space heating and DHW preparation using geothermal power from the hot mineral springs.

Within Green Twinning activities Velingrad Municipality is developing knowledge on sustainable energy planning and project identification and implementation.