Up and downs of Spanish photovoltaics

9 10 2009

The total photovoltaic power installed in Spain in the year 2008 was an impressive  2,661 MW, well ahead of both USA and Germany. The growth was 385% over 2007 (691 MW installed) and it was too sudden and clearly unsustainable. Under 2007 legislation (Real Decreto 661) that set a bonus of 0.44 euros/kW/h installed, 2,661 MW were installed that exceeded by far the objectives of 371 MW for 2010 in the Energy Plan of 2005.  Thus in setember 2008 the incentivation of new installations was severely cut by a new decree from the government (Real Decreto 1578), with a bonus of 0,32 euros/kWh and a quota for total installations per year. According to the magazine Era Solar, estimated revenues over 25 year operation decreased from 8-10% to about 5-7%. As a consequence of several factors, mainly the global finance crisis, which is especially severe in Spain due to the shrink of the real state market, the phtovoltaic market was completely paralized for 6 months, the potential size reduced to 1/5. Previously abundant credit for new solar parks also vanished from the scene. And since investors knew in mid 2008 that the return conditions were going to worsen, there was a rush against the deadline that agglomerated installations before setember 2008. Since then the Spanish photovoltaic industry has entered a time of deep trouble and collapse, with a destruction of 25,000 employments. All the temporal work places have been erased, investments were cancelled and strong adjustments put in place. Installment quotas for 2009 (500 MW) in 2008 legislation have not been  covered. As of july 2009 the yearly instalment was less than 6 MW!

09 inst power Spain

Photovoltaic power connected to grid in Spain

Somehow the political class encouraged a strong and excessive development of photovoltaics in Spain but they totally changed their mind at the worst moment.

Nonetheless, and despite the concerns that some of the photovoltaics parks are not working properly as announced, extensive installment of photovoltaic power in 2007 and 2008 (predominantly in Castilla-La Mancha and Murcia) has left in place the reality of 1.5% of the grid power supplied by sunlight, which means autonomous energy with no direct CO2 emissions. In august 2009, the 3,300 MW of photovoltaic power supplied 3% of the demand of electricity, with the supply nicely matching the peaks of demand in the daytime.

In total, in the past months of 2009, energy technologies based on renewable resources produced between 50-60% of the required electricity in the Iberian peninsula for 9 days, and 40-50% for 48 days. In average there was 23.5% of renewable electricity supply that caused no problem in the general distribution system.

Some previsions claim that grid parity in Spain, i.e. the point at which the cost of photovoltaic power will match the price of electricity paid by consumers, is now in sight for 2013- 2015. Hopefully the industry will adapt itself to a future in which public subsides will not be needed.

But the industry claims that the government could do a lot more than support a part of the cost of solar electricity. It seems that the administrative issues constitute a major blocking step for the installement of small power systems in buildings, a segment of the market that is now favored by the 2008 legislation. Administrative processing of 5 kW on the roof requires the same effort as a 10 MW plant on the ground, and it typically takes 6 months for approval.

Now that photovoltaics has become a near reality in Spain, consumers may ask for a simple way to produce their own electricity. But in present conditions only very brave and environmentally conscious people will surmount the official barriers to do so. Simplification of administrative procedures never seems easy in Spain, a bureaucracy-laden country, but is a key step for development of building integrated photovoltaics, to produce clean energy right were the people works and lives, and to boost a potentially enormous knowledge-based industry.

More information: ASIF


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