Serbia inaugurates 2 MW solar farm while rejecting PV

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Serbia’s Minister of Mining and Energy Aleksandar Antic inaugurated the country’s second 2 MW solar photovoltaic farm in the eastern Serbian town of Kladovo on Saturday.

The plant, which cost €3 million and covers an area of 5 hectares (12.3 acres), is owned by Kladovo-based Solaris Energy and is expected to power half the Kladovo municipality during the summer.

The Kladovo solar farm was initially inaugurated in January 2014, when the first 1 MW phase of its construction was completed. Construction of the second phase of the solar farm began later.

Antic inaugurated another 1 MW solar farm near Beocin, in northern Serbia, in September. The project, which spreads over 1.2 hectares (3 acres) and cost about €1.8 million, is owned by the Serbian subsidiary of Slovakia’s Prima Energy. Czech company Solartec served as the project’s contractor.

Serbian energy mix bars solar PV

Unfortunately, the good news for solar PV in Serbia ends here.

The country’s power needs are predominantly covered by coal (around 60% to 70%) and large hydro plants. All power units are older than 20 years and since the age of generation units, on average, stands at 35 to 40 years, there could theoretically be a surge in new renewable energy plants.

This doesn’t seem to be happening though. Instead, the revitalization of the existing plants combined with low electricity demand growth appears to be satisfying the country’s power demands, at least until 2020. Local policymakers also largely favor lignite and hydro — both of which are in great abundance in the country.

Hopes for a rise in renewable energy (RE) development in Serbia beyond large hydro were initially raised in December 2009, when Serbia’s government adopted green power tariffs for the first time. RE tariffs were updated last year, offering a very good 16.3-19.8 euro cents per kilowatt hour to solar PV plants, dependant on the type and size of plant.

But while the tariff granted to solar PV is very good, a separate law related to the production from renewables allocated a ridiculously low quota for photovoltaic plants, giving 6 MW to ground-mounted plants and 4 MW to rooftop plants by 2020. On the contrary, wind farms were allocated a 700 MW quota by 2020.

Not that wind power investors need to start getting overly glad. The country’s so-called action plan envisages only an 8% increase in the share of RE power plants in overall electricity production until 2020, corresponding to 37% percent in 2020, up from about 29% today and includes large hydro).

Solar PV development in Serbia does not appear to be on the agenda of local politicians, and it’s unfortunate because the country has very good potential: According Solaris Energy, average solar irradiation intensity ranges between 1.1 kilowatt hour per square meter a day in the north to 1.7 kilowatt hours per square meter a day in the south in January and between 5.9 kWh/m2/per day to 6.6 kWh/m2/per day in July, respectively.

One of Serbia’s first significant PV installations was a 260 kW plant put into operation in 2013 near the city of Leskovac. A larger 2 MW photovoltaic plant, the Matarova solar farm, was also put into operation in 2013 in the village of Merdare, in the municipality of Kursumlija. The €4 million Matatova farm was developed by Italy’s Gascom and local Multienergy and covers an area of 4 hectares (9.9 acres). German and Chinese investors have also expressed interests in developing PV projects in Serbia and are in talks with local municipalities but no significant progress has been announced thus far.

Serbia’s installed power capacity consists of around 8,350 MW of plants, which are mainly thermal based (around 5,200 MW), large hydro (2,800 MW) and combined heat and power plants (350 MW), including Kosovo. There is no wind farm currently operating in Serbia.