Category: News

Solarcentury to build Spanish 200MW portfolio after stake sale

Solarcentury has offloaded a majority stake in a 200MW PV portfolio in southern Spain, which it will work to build starting this summer.

The British solar developer has yet to disclose the identity of the majority buyer for the four 50MW projects ‘Cerrado Cabrera’, ‘El Primo Alemán’, ‘Hazas de los Sesenta’ and ‘Los González’, cleared for construction last November in Alcalá de Guadaira (near Seville).

Solarcentury said it will build, run and manage the ‘La Cabrera’ group of four mostly on its own, once full financial close is reached. The developer will work alongside partner and local engineering firm Texla, as earlier statements had indicated.

The stake divestment comes amid speculation that a sale could too lie on the horizon for the entire Solarcentury group. Last week, investment bank Evercore was said by Sky News to have been hired to run a £250 million (US$325 million) auction process for the UK developer.

Over in Alcalá de Guadaira, work on the 200MW portfolio should see the four PV plants linked to the grid in 2020. the power they generate after that point should cover the demand of 105,000 households, according to Solarcentury.

As noted by the firm’s chief executive Frans van den Heuvel, this is the second large-scale PV project it is deploying on a subsidy-free basis in Spain.

Its 300MW Talayuela installation in Cáceres – some 400 kilometres north – went down the same route after signing a PPA with an undisclosed offtaker last October. Since that same month, the project has been co-owned between renewable operator Encavis (80%) and Solarcentury (20%) after the former bought a majority stake.

Solarcentury claims to be working on a 5GW solar pipeline across the globe, spanning auction-backed projects in France, PV mini-grids in Eritrea, utility-scale in the Netherlands, Nigeria and Chile, amongst others.

UK large-scale post-subsidy pipeline soars 67% in just six months, topping 4.2GW

The pipeline of active large-scale pre-build large-scale solar farms (>250kWp) has seen significant growth during the past six months, and now stands at more than 4.2GW of total capacity.

This growth has been driven by the return of established greenfield developers, experienced with the UK solar planning process, and sets up the prospect of strong post-subsidy build-out during the 2020-2022 time period.

This article discusses the facts and figures behind this 67% growth in projects and pipeline capacity that has occurred in just six months, outlines the methodology used by our in-house market-research team at Solar Media, and breaks down the 4.2GW capacity across categories critical to site owners and component suppliers.

All data is taken directly from the UK Large-Scale Solar Farms: The Post-Subsidy Prospect List report that includes a full audit trail of all projects making up the 220 sites, totalling 4.234GW.

The 4.2GW pipeline of large-scale solar farms in the UK

During the past six months, the total number of sites at various stage of pre-build planning has increased by almost 70% from 131 sites at the end of October 2018, to 220 sites at the end of March 2019. This corresponds to a pipeline capacity change from 2.533GW to 4.234GW today.

During the past month, an additional 15 new sites were added to the pipeline, with a total of 846MW, driven largely by the inclusion of the Sunnica Solar Farm proposal, the specific details of which were first reported on sister publication Solar Power Portal last week.

The inclusion of the Sunnica site now means that there are 3 solar farms being reviewed under the UK’s Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) that is mandated under the Planning Act 2008 that was introduced to streamline the decision-making process for major infrastructure projects across England and Wales.

Collectively, the Sunnica Solar Farm, along with Cleve Hill Solar Farm and Little Crow Solar Farm (the other NSIP designated sites) contribute 1GW of pipeline capacity.

Interestingly, across the remaining 3.2GW of pipeline capacity, we see an increasing number of former FiT/RO-motivated planners returning to greenfield site scoping, the most noticeable of which is Lightsource BP. Prior to its investment by BP, Lightsource was highly adept at identifying discrete land sites that were conveniently nearby and could be effectively merged into one as far as construction-related issues were concerned.

The reason this is relevant today relates to the probability of any post-subsidy sites being completed. Obviously, when solar sites move into NSIP territory, the chances of planning approval become more dependent on political whims of the day.

The best way to understand this is to compare the costs and risk to building, for example, a new 300MW portfolio. Building six separate 50MW sites (exclusively through the LPA portal process) is probably a far less risky proposition than a single 300MW project.

Ultimately, whether this is true or not will be known in about three years from now when we review how much of the post-subsidy sites have come from NSIP and non-NSIP (LPA-only) routes.

However, even removing the 3 NSIP sites, the site pipeline count has grown from 131 to 220 in just six months, as shown in the graphic below.

Understanding the status of the 4.23GW of pipeline capacity

As suggested above, the first thing needed to understand the total capacity is to remove the speculative NSIP projects. This quickly takes us to 217 projects adding to 3.2GW.

We then have 38 sites at >30MW (total 1.7GW), 30 sites in the 20-30MW range (707MW) and 39 in the 10-20MW band (515MW).

However, the most relevant segmentation comes from the planning approval classifications. A total of 115 sites have planning application approval (albeit subject to conditional discharge), adding to 1.47GW. This group remains the only viable sites for 2019 build-out, discussed in more detail below.

20 sites (smaller in size) represent new applications that are pending LPA approval, with just 109MW total capacity.

The majority of the capacity comes from sites that have yet to have full application forms submitted to LPA portals: 85 sites contributing a total of 2.66GW of capacity, of which 1GW is coming of course from the 3 NSIP sites.

For reference, we follow a relatively tried-and-tested process of removing pre-application screening/scoping applications after 12 months, if no full planning application has been submitted. Most times, this is a good way of keeping the pipeline fresh and relevant. However, it does appear that a small group of greenfield developers is putting in placeholders that could be returned to for full planning applications beyond our 12 month window.

This can be explained by the fact that the incentive-driven time deadlines are no longer in play, negating the requirement to rush a planning application to the LPA once it has been confirmed that an EIA is not needed. Again, only time will tell if this assumption is correct.

Pipeline growth also reflects non-completion of build-outs

While growth in any pipeline of pre-built sites is critical to understand developers’ bullishness in final site returns (either flipping or owning), it is also impacted by the lack of new site completions. This simple fact confirms the as-yet activity-uptick in solar farm builds in the UK during 2019.

However, this is perhaps not unsurprising as there are no quarter-end deadlines today. Also, to some extent, one cannot discount Brexit-related impacts on the broader investment climate prevailing in the UK these days.

Furthermore, component supply is also moving rapidly in a way that the sit-and-wait strategy can only yield fruitful outcomes in terms of lower site capex (mainly from module ASP declines) and higher-performing products (most notably from bifacial availability).

In reality, most of the expected build-outs for 2019 are still going through conditional planning discharge, owing from the fact that many sites were submitted during RO days and were put on ice, either due to time-consuming discharging elements or being halted through the removal of the much-anticipated CfD (second) round for solar that never happened.

A further delay on build out of these pseudo-post-subsidy sites comes from changes in site ownership (pre-build) that requires new site owners to perform their own internal due-diligence and build-out planning arrangements.

Therefore, when assessing additional capacity coming from large-scale solar farms in the UK, there are several factors to consider: near-term 2019 capacity from projects currently getting final build-approval, approved sites that are being lined up for 2020, and the 2.65GW of pre-application sites that will either be moved to full planning status or mothballed for a number of reasons.

This story was originally published by sister publication Solar Power Portal, which will give further updates across the pipeline segments in the coming months 

Foresight’s Spanish PV duo bags 10-year PPA with ArcelorMital

Foresight’s zero-subsidy solar portfolio has reached 116MW this week after PPA documents were signed for two plants near Toledo, central Spain.

The deal struck with ArcelorMittal will see power flow from Foresight’s 10MW PV cluster to the corporate’s Spanish steel mills for 10 years, in return for an undisclosed fixed price.

Escalonilla Norte and Escalonilla Sur, each boasting 5MW capacity, have been under construction since EPC contractor Solaer Group broke ground in June 2018.

With the launch of operations scheduled between April and June, each is designed to produce some 8.6GWh every year.

Foresight – which was assisted by Watson, Farley & Williams and Our New Energy in the PPA negotiations – billed the deal as the first 10-year, fixed-price corporate PPA to be signed in Spanish soil.

As noted by Foresight director Carlos Rey in a statement, the deal is the third the firm has sealed in Iberia to feature a 10-year period.

With a global solar portfolio of 1.1GW, the UK-headquartered investor is not alone in having tapped unsubsidised projects in Spain and Portugal. From BayWa r.e. to Audax, developers and investors are busy deploying zero-subsidy farms and learning to navigate complex PPA negotiations.

PV ‘mega-facility’ to help Iberdrola with Spanish scale-up plans

Iberdrola’s efforts to add gigawatts worth of Spanish renewables within years are set for a boost after construction of a 391MW PV plant got underway this week.

The utility giant shared plans to add 2GW in solar and wind in the Extremadura region alone by 2022 as the first panels were laid out for the Nuñez de Balboa project in Usagre (Badajoz province).

The facility, billed as Europe’s largest PV project to date and Iberdrola’s most significant, will require around €300 million in investment. Equipped with over 1.4 million PV panels across a 1,000-hectare site, the facility comes with maximum grid-connected capacity of 391MW. 

Its entry into operations, slated for September 2020, should see it supply enough power to meet the needs of 250,000 people. The electricity will be transferred to the neighbouring 400kV Bienvenida substation, and then acquired – via PPAs – by bank Kutxabank, telecoms firm Euskaltel and food distributor Uvesco.

“This renewable mega-facility will become the spearhead that will consolidate the leadership position of Extremadura, Spain and the EU in the transition to a more sustainable energy system,” said Iberdrola chair Ignacio Galán at this week’s kick-off ceremony, attended by Extremadura president Guillermo Fernández Vara.

The planned Extremadura boost by 2022 comes amid a broader push, revealed by Iberdrola in February, to commission 10GW of Spanish renewables by 2030. Nuñez de Balboa aside, other plants in the region – 328MW Ceclavín and 150MW Arenales, among others – should help it reach the milestone.

Iberdrola is the latest to go down the PPA route in the Spanish PV landscape, gradually embracing the zero-subsidy approach. Investors Smartenergy and Aquila and developer BayWa r.e. are some of the players carving out a slice of the Iberian market in recent times.

Subsidy u-turn could cost Spain €291m-plus in developer damages

Spain’s move to retroactively scrap renewable subsidies in the early 2010s may cost the country hundreds of millions after a legal setback this week.

An arbitration tribunal found on 12 March that US giant NextEra Energy is entitled to compensation after having to close a Spanish subsidiary in 2016, years after the country pulled the plug on its feed-in tariff programme.

The decision by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) – part of the World Bank group – found that Spain should be liable for damages, equal to the return NextEra would have reaped on its investments to build two 49.9MW thermal solar plants in the Extremadura region.

The developer is one of many, including PV players, pursuing reparations from Spain through the International Energy Charter; Masdar was awarded €260 million last year.

For its part, NextEra Energy is seeking damages of at least €291 million (USD $329 million). This, the firm said in a statement this week, would come on top of “pre- and post-judgment interest based on the 5-year Spanish sovereign bond rate.”  

The ICSID decision, NextEra added, means the court has upheld its allegations that Spain breached the 1994 Energy Charter Treaty, by failing to protect the “legitimate expectations” the firm based its investment on.

Dozens of arbitration cases still open

The ICSID decision, reached five years after NextEra first lodged its complaint, marks a comedown for Spain but does not conclude the process. Whether and how much Spain ends up paying in damages will be decided by the court’s final award, at a date that has yet to be confirmed. 

For the Spanish government, the setback before the ICSID emerges as dozens of similar cases under the Energy Charter progress through various arbitration courts. Last June, the ICSID found the country in breach of the treaty as part of a case opened by developer Antin, which had invested in two thermal solar projects in Granada (southern Spain)

Legal disputes may be forcing Spain to relive its policy u-turn but the country’s PV industry has since worked to free itself from regulatory support. As PV Tech recently found, corporate and utility PPAs are providing subsidy-free solar with revenue certainty even if their negotiation remains expensive and time-consuming.

Upcoming PV growth in Spain may, again, be influenced by political shifts. The country recently tabled ambitious renewable plans – including 37GW of PV by 2030 – but these remain a statement of intent unless adopted by the new government resulting from the 28 April general election.

See here for NextEra’s statement

Researchers tout hybrid approach for corporate PPA risks

The renewables industry could start moving towards PPAs covering both solar PV and wind given their potential to help offset intermittency, according to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

“It is our expectation there are going to be deals like these. Whether to reduce risks or otherwise, we think companies will start contracting multi-technology PPAs,” Mariana Heinrich, climate and energy manager at WBCSD, told PV Tech on Friday.

Her words followed the publication by the Council – which regroups sustainability-minded corporates worldwide – of a report mapping out the benefits and challenges of the hybrid PPA approach.

The key perk, Henrich said, lies with intermittency management. “The generation profile of both technologies is likely different enough for one to compensate for the other, particularly on a yearly rather than daily basis,” she explained.

The WBCSD report shows a PV-wind hybrid PPA can help alleviate imbalance charges, set by grid operators for power providers producing more or less than the volumes they had forecast.

It can also, Heinrich noted, reduce the need for top-up purchases when solar and wind don’t deliver. “What we’ve found is, the power a facility has to buy on top of solar and wind is less in a combined PPA than taken separately,” she said. 

Hybrid’s not for everyone

However advantageous, the multi-technology PPA approach has reportedly not been taken on publicly by anyone worldwide so far. Heinrich acknowledged WBCSD has witnessed negotiations in markets such as the US but said she couldn’t elaborate on the firms or technologies involved.

The rise of more innovative PPA models comes at a time when these structures are increasingly relied upon by PV developers. Solar corporate PPAs are on the rise and helping the industry, particularly in Europe, achieve revenue certainty without the need for subsidies. However, finding bankable corporates and negotiating deals after that point remains costly and time-consuming.

As Heinrich stressed, PV-plus-wind PPAs might not necessarily work for all developers. “They must decide: is the potential risk reduction actually enough to outperform existing methods?” she said. As the report itself notes, existing tools – typically having one party take on risk for a fee – offer the advantage of being “relatively simple”.

Advocates of the hybrid approach, Heinrich added, should also carefully examine PPA clauses. Performance standards are easier to establish for single- than multiple-technology arrangements. Decisions on when solar and wind would each be available to schedule maintenance – or whether any of the two is more important – can be complex, she explained.

Legislative changes must too be considered, Heinrich noted. “If there’s a change in the law but it only applies to solar, do you renegotiate the whole PPA or only the solar-specific elements?” she said. “None of these are hugely difficult problems, just questions firms must think about.”

See here for the full version of the WBCSD report

Subsidy-free solar-plus-storage at UK’s ‘most technologically advanced’ large-scale project

GRIDSERVE, a UK-based developer, financier and operator of large-scale solar energy projects, is to start construction on a 37.4MW solar farm and 27MW battery storage project imminently, in what is being billed as the UK’s most technologically advanced solar farm to date.

As well as being built without subsidies, the solar farm will be the first in the UK to use bifacial modules and single-axis trackers, indicating two potentially significant trends for the utility-scale market moving forward.

Once complete, the site will be purchased buy and supply 100% of the energy demand of Warrington Borough Council, in yet another significant milestone for the UK solar sector.

In addition, a second, 25.7MW solar farm is to be constructed soon after, taking GRIDSERVE’s solar build-out for this year to 62MW.

GRIDSERVE reached financial close on the projects last week with Investec Bank and Leapfrog Finance agreeing to fund the construction of the two solar farms.

The first, hybrid solar project is to be built in York while the secondary solar farm is to be constructed in Hull, and Warrington Borough Council will pay £62.34 million (US$83.02 million) for the two assets, taking ownership when they are operational.

GRIDSERVE meanwhile will remain on board and provide operation and maintenance services for the projects over their lifetimes. Energy-Storage.news’ UK sister site Solar Power Portal spoke exclusively yesterday with CEO Toddington Harper.

The tech

The projects will be unique to the UK by using bifacial p-mono PERC modules, provided by Suntech, allowing the farm to generate power from both sides of the panel. They will also be the first large-scale projects in the UK to use single-axis trackers from NextTracker to maximise its generation and minimise price cannibalisation.

Combined, the two technological innovations are forecast to boost generation by 20%.

The 27MW lithium-ion battery storage system at York will be the largest at any UK solar farm at the time of completion and will share the site’s grid connection. GRIDSERVE is to use the battery to store and get more advantageous pricing for the solar farm’s output and provide grid balancing services to National Grid.

A second battery storage system is earmarked for the Hull site during a later phase.

In addition, GRIDSERVE and WBC have also announced plans to install ‘Electric Forecourts’ – which GRIDSERVE unveiled last year – comprising high-speed electric vehicle chargers once complete.

Toddington Harper, CEO and founder at GRIDSERVE and former chief exec at Belectric UK, described the projects as the “most advanced” in the UK and said they stood to “usher in a new era of subsidy-free, truly sustainable energy”.

“We’ve completely rethought the solar model, looking in detail at how to maximise value at every step, and these projects will also pioneer the use of cutting-edge technologies that serve the grid,” he said.

The council involvement

Harper said that Warrington was “leading the way” in showing councils how solar and battery storage can combine, generating sustainable income to deliver public services while supporting a low carbon economy.

While other councils and local authorities have made forays into the solar market, none have yet shown the ambition to develop or purchase projects of this scale and magnitude.

WBC expects the projects to cut its energy bills by as much as £2 million each year. In addition, GRIDSERVE is to make a £100,000 contribution to fund specific intiatives in the area to top up an £85,000-a-year fund which will support local community benefit projects in Warrington.

Electricity from the solar farm in York will initially be sold on the spot market, however GRIDSERVE said a number of local authorities had already expressed an interest in purchasing the power under a PPA arrangement.

Councillor Russ Bowden, leader of WBC, said the deal was good news for Warrington residents. “The solar farms will secure our energy supply, give us control over our energy prices, contribute to reducing fuel poverty and generate an estimated operating surplus of £150 million over 30 years that can be invested back into the most important frontline services.

“Councils have a major role to play in helping to meet carbon emission reduction targets. These two sites are a working model that we hope other local authorities will follow.”

A ‘future blueprint’ for UK solar

Finlay Colville, head of market research at Solar Media, has been tracking the sites as they have progressed through the planning system.

“Aside from the addition of storage batteries, the most interesting aspect is certainly the new site design using p-mono PERC bifacial modules and single-axis trackers. When the UK experienced its first ground-mount boom, developers went for the lowest cost capex in plant build, using 60-cell poly panels on fixed mounting arrangements. In many ways, this mirrored the approach done in many global markets, and back then it was the most bankable route to solar farm execution.

“Today is totally different, and the UK’s barren phase of solar farm build has overlapped with a technology revolution in manufacturing that has been going on. Maximising yields is now about 72-cell mono panels with dc-power ratings above 370W, the use of bifaciality where both sides of the panel absorb sunlight, and low-cost trackers. The increase in capex more than pays in terms of yield and ROI. It used to be this type of arrangement was confined to high-irradiation, near-equitorial parts of the globe: not any more.

“While other planners are active now in the UK developing new sites and scoping land for future deployment, the sites redesigned by Gridserve in the past year are the only examples of a UK-based developer taking advantage of the current state-of-the-art utility-build practices. Others will of course follow, in particular sites such as the mega-scale Cleve Hill, whose plant design will naturally go through more rounds of amendment, and anything that can reduce the footprint on a 350MW solar farm is only going to be greeted with joy when meeting final planning objections.

“Once the first of Gridserve’s sites is built, it will certainly be the blueprint for other UK solar farm developers, with many flocking to the local authority planning portals to download the newest site plans posted.”

Subsidy-free solar-plus-storage at UK’s ‘most technologically advanced’ large-scale project

GRIDSERVE, a UK-based developer, financier and operator of large-scale solar energy projects, is to start construction on a 37.4MW solar farm and 27MW battery storage project imminently, in what is being billed as the UK’s most technologically advanced solar farm to date.

As well as being built without subsidies, the solar farm will be the first in the UK to use bifacial modules and single-axis trackers, indicating two potentially significant trends for the utility-scale market moving forward.

Once complete, the site will be purchased buy and supply 100% of the energy demand of Warrington Borough Council, in yet another significant milestone for the UK solar sector.

In addition, a second, 25.7MW solar farm is to be constructed soon after, taking GRIDSERVE’s solar build-out for this year to 62MW.

GRIDSERVE reached financial close on the projects last week with Investec Bank and Leapfrog Finance agreeing to fund the construction of the two solar farms.

The first, hybrid solar project is to be built in York while the secondary solar farm is to be constructed in Hull, and Warrington Borough Council will pay £62.34 million (US$83.02 million) for the two assets, taking ownership when they are operational.

GRIDSERVE meanwhile will remain on board and provide operation and maintenance services for the projects over their lifetimes. Energy-Storage.news’ UK sister site Solar Power Portal spoke exclusively yesterday with CEO Toddington Harper.

The tech

The projects will be unique to the UK by using bifacial p-mono PERC modules, provided by Suntech, allowing the farm to generate power from both sides of the panel. They will also be the first large-scale projects in the UK to use single-axis trackers from NextTracker to maximise its generation and minimise price cannibalisation.

Combined, the two technological innovations are forecast to boost generation by 20%.

The 27MW lithium-ion battery storage system at York will be the largest at any UK solar farm at the time of completion and will share the site’s grid connection. GRIDSERVE is to use the battery to store and get more advantageous pricing for the solar farm’s output and provide grid balancing services to National Grid.

A second battery storage system is earmarked for the Hull site during a later phase.

In addition, GRIDSERVE and WBC have also announced plans to install ‘Electric Forecourts’ – which GRIDSERVE unveiled last year – comprising high-speed electric vehicle chargers once complete.

Toddington Harper, CEO and founder at GRIDSERVE and former chief exec at Belectric UK, described the projects as the “most advanced” in the UK and said they stood to “usher in a new era of subsidy-free, truly sustainable energy”.

“We’ve completely rethought the solar model, looking in detail at how to maximise value at every step, and these projects will also pioneer the use of cutting-edge technologies that serve the grid,” he said.

The council involvement

Harper said that Warrington was “leading the way” in showing councils how solar and battery storage can combine, generating sustainable income to deliver public services while supporting a low carbon economy.

While other councils and local authorities have made forays into the solar market, none have yet shown the ambition to develop or purchase projects of this scale and magnitude.

WBC expects the projects to cut its energy bills by as much as £2 million each year. In addition, GRIDSERVE is to make a £100,000 contribution to fund specific intiatives in the area to top up an £85,000-a-year fund which will support local community benefit projects in Warrington.

Electricity from the solar farm in York will initially be sold on the spot market, however GRIDSERVE said a number of local authorities had already expressed an interest in purchasing the power under a PPA arrangement.

Councillor Russ Bowden, leader of WBC, said the deal was good news for Warrington residents. “The solar farms will secure our energy supply, give us control over our energy prices, contribute to reducing fuel poverty and generate an estimated operating surplus of £150 million over 30 years that can be invested back into the most important frontline services.

“Councils have a major role to play in helping to meet carbon emission reduction targets. These two sites are a working model that we hope other local authorities will follow.”

A ‘future blueprint’ for UK solar

Finlay Colville, head of market research at Solar Media, has been tracking the sites as they have progressed through the planning system.

“Aside from the addition of storage batteries, the most interesting aspect is certainly the new site design using p-mono PERC bifacial modules and single-axis trackers. When the UK experienced its first ground-mount boom, developers went for the lowest cost capex in plant build, using 60-cell poly panels on fixed mounting arrangements. In many ways, this mirrored the approach done in many global markets, and back then it was the most bankable route to solar farm execution.

“Today is totally different, and the UK’s barren phase of solar farm build has overlapped with a technology revolution in manufacturing that has been going on. Maximising yields is now about 72-cell mono panels with dc-power ratings above 370W, the use of bifaciality where both sides of the panel absorb sunlight, and low-cost trackers. The increase in capex more than pays in terms of yield and ROI. It used to be this type of arrangement was confined to high-irradiation, near-equitorial parts of the globe: not any more.

“While other planners are active now in the UK developing new sites and scoping land for future deployment, the sites redesigned by Gridserve in the past year are the only examples of a UK-based developer taking advantage of the current state-of-the-art utility-build practices. Others will of course follow, in particular sites such as the mega-scale Cleve Hill, whose plant design will naturally go through more rounds of amendment, and anything that can reduce the footprint on a 350MW solar farm is only going to be greeted with joy when meeting final planning objections.

“Once the first of Gridserve’s sites is built, it will certainly be the blueprint for other UK solar farm developers, with many flocking to the local authority planning portals to download the newest site plans posted.”

Elections to dictate success of Spain’s 100%-renewable push

Fast-approaching snap elections in Spain will decide whether the multibillion-euro renewables build-up proposed this week will ever become a reality.

Draft climate change legislation green-lighted by Spanish ministers on Friday mandates fully renewable power generation and 90% lower greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The package – which remains a statement of intent and cannot be debated by MPs in time before the snap elections of 28 April 2019 – sets an interim 74% renewable power generation target by 2030, up from the current 38-40% figure. By that year, PV would need to produce 66,373GWh, a figure only surpassed by wind’s 116,110GWh.

In terms of final energy consumption, renewables would need to grow from the current 17% share to 42% by 2030. The government’s goal is for PV solar capacity in particular to rise from 4.9GW (2015) to 8.4GW (2020), 23.4GW (2025) and 37GW (2030); only wind power (50GW) would overtake PV by the latter year

3GW of renewable auctions per year

The roadmap of socialist president Pedro Sánchez lays out plans on how to finance such meteoric growth. Under the draft legislation, a fifth of general budgets would be earmarked for the low-carbon transition. Some €236 billion would be mobilised between 2021-2030 alone, of which €125 billion-plus would be reserved for renewables and grid upgrades.

The document lays the foundations for clean energy incentives going forward, a thorny issue in a country that rocked the PV industry as it retroactively scrapped feed-in-tariff schemes in the early 2010s.

Auctions – which resumed in Spain in 2015 – would continue under a new system that would support renewables through a fixed price for all power generated. The new regime would have to be fleshed out by future governments but the plan already proposes a minimum target – 3GW – for renewable volumes to be auctioned every year.

Electrified transport would too get a boost under Sánchez’s blueprint, which would mandate the addition of charging infrastructure of 22kw-plus at fuel and service stations in Spain. The obligation would apply to facilities with 5 million or more in combined fuel and diel sales in 2018.

The document also foresees a “massive” roll-out of self-consumption, badly stung in the years between the country’s adoption of a so-called sun tax in 2015 and its phase-out in 2018. A self-consumption national strategy will set out actions – concessional finance, third-party management – for ministries, regional and local authorities to promote the approach.

6GW in energy storage capacity by 2030

The state-sponsored push for renewables comes at a time when PV players have found success without the need for government support. Policymakers are however still expected to play a key role in expanding the grid, which some fear would collapse if it had to process in its current state the capacity under planning.

Sánchez’s roadmap acknowledges that integrating the planned renewable surge will require planning. The government’s answer is a vaguely-worded commitment to “adapt” the grid to any capacity influx and a 6GW boost to energy storage capacity by 2030: 3.5GW for pumped storage, 2.5GW for actual batteries.

As he discussed the legislative package this week, the president stressed that a great deal of the jobs and investment opportunities at stake lie with renewables. Spain, he said, is “privileged” to be undertaking this transformation armed with “cheap and unlimited” solar and wind energy.

The success of his climate change plan now lies beyond his control, however, and will be decided by Spanish voters at the election now two months away. Recent polls place Sánchez’s socialist party PSOE as the frontrunner, showing however that a right-wing coalition of opposition parties PP, Ciudadanos and Vox would overtake any similar left-wing alliance.

ROUND-UP: Innogy’s new subsidy-free duo, Terra Solar in planning victory, Better Energy’s 125MW PPA

Innogy to build subsidy-free 57MWp plant duo

18 February: Innogy SE is to build a fresh 57MWp in Canada through two plants in the Western province of Alberta set to enter commissioning this year.

The German power provider announced investments in the “mid-double-digit million euro range” will back the construction of 30MWp Prairie-Sunlight II and 27MWp Prairie Sunlight III.

The subsidy-free projects, planned near the Southern Alberta town of Vauxhall, were acquired by Innogy from Canadian firm Solar Krafte Utilities.

According to the builder, construction should kick off in Q2 2019 and lead to a start of commercial operations by the end of the year.

Terra Solar’s Waterford project survives council pushback  

18 February: Terra Solar is to press ahead with plans for a solar farm in Waterford after overturning the opposition from city councillors, The Times reports.

The utility-scale developer succeeded in its appeal against Waterford council’s decision to block the facility, slated for construction on a 51-hectare site at Carrigalong.

For Terra Solar, the planning victory comes more than two years after it reaped €2.5m in financing from Irish state-owned utility the ESB Group.

As reported by sister publication Solar Power Portal at the time, ESB’s involvement – which saw it become a shareholder at Terra Solar – would support solar farms in Limerick, Watford and Wexford.

Better Energy lands 125MW PPA with Danish corporate

13 February: Better Energy has signed a PPA with Heartland, the parent group of fashion group Bestseller, for the construction of a 125MW-plus solar plant in Denmark.

The facility’s output, Bestseller said, is expected to fully satisfy the energy consumption of all the buildings it owns and operates worldwide.

Better Energy, a Copenhagen-based builder and operator of utility-scale PV, said in a statement PPAs will become a “driving market force” in the future.

These agreements, Better Energy said after signing the Bestseller PPA, will help energy buyers counter “rising utility rates” and provide producers with a “stable source of revenue”.  

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