Cyprus: Construction begins on five PV plants; storage to emerge

CYPV Energy, a company headquartered in Limassol, Cyprus, is set to build five new solar PV plants in the country totaling 11.9 MW.

Greece’s Sunel Ltd is serving as the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for the projects, while SunTechnics, a subsidiary of GDL Green Energy, which also owns CYPV Energy, will handle management, operation and maintenance of the parks.

Construction of the project is scheduled to begin this month and last some eight months, a company spokesman told pv magazine.

The plants are part of a portfolio of six solar PV projects that CYPV Energy won via a competitive tender for photovoltaic capacity in January 2013. The sixth project is a 10 MW solar farm that was the biggest project of the tender and whose construction is yet to be announced.

Of the twenty three PV parks tendered in 2013, pv magazine has learned that until now, only five projects (corresponding to 8.1 MW) have been installed and connected to the grid.

Commenting on the delay in building the tendered projects, the CYPV spokesman said red tape was a major factor. The projects face huge bureaucratic hurdles at all stages of the licensing procedure, he added. As a consequence, project financing is often delayed. “Banks, for example, will not approve any loan if all licenses are not in place.”

Needless to say that the recent financial crisis that hit the country in 2013 and led to the closure of local banks and a haircut in all banks’ deposits has made the banking sector all the more risk averse.

Energy storage ahead

Nevertheless, the bad times appear to be over, not least because in recent weeks the country has successfully exited the financial aid program supported by the European Union.

A major source of hope stems from the electricity market reform that Cyprus needs to implement within the next one to two years and which currently is under consultation. According to the reforms, Cyprus is set to unbundle its electricity sector, creating new dynamics in the market.

There are a lot of companies that have applied at the Cypriot energy regulator to develop more solar PV plants. CYPV Energy for instance has applied to develop between 25 to 30 MW after 2018, when the new market reform is expected to be in place, the CYPV Energy spokesperson said.

However, there are two major issues currently being discussed in Cyprus and, depending on their resolution, the renewable energy sector is going to be altered accordingly. The first issue regards the electricity interconnection of Cyprus with neighboring countries. A study of the so-called EuroAsia Interconnector, planned to link Cyprus to Greece and Israel, is under way and funded by the EU. Another issue, which has recently emerged, is the implementation of a smart Cypriot grid, including energy storage.

CYPV Energy is collaborating with European stakeholders regarding storage solutions and aiming to acquire technical and managerial knowledge that would apply in Cyprus, the company spokesman said. There is also a public discussion in Cyprus following the implementation of the new electricity market framework to make it compulsory for all new renewable energy projects in Cyprus to include storage on site, he added.

Cyprus’ electricity grid is one of the least connected to the rest of the bloc. In fact, the country has no electrical connection at all to any other country. Malta was in a similar situation until 2015, when it was linked to Italy.

Cyprus looks set to follow Ireland, another EU island that is connected to the U.K. grid and has become Europe’s lab for energy storage technologies. Cyprus’ alternative solution of linking its grid to Israel and Greece is likely to be abandoned on economic grounds.

Cypriot PV statistics

Until today, the Republic of Cyprus has installed 78 MW of solar PV systems, of which 22.7 MW are installed via the net-metering scheme. Another 82 MW of PV systems are expected to be installed by 2018, either through the tendered plants or net-metering, CYPV Energy told pv magazine.

Furthermore, Cyprus has a national target to install 192 MW of PV by 2020 and the energy regulator is very keen to see this target increasing, said the CYPV Energy spokesman. However, a spokesman for the energy regulator recently told pv magazine that there was a 25% reduction in electricity demand following the financial crisis. This reduction is certain to alter Cyprus’ national renewable energy action plan, he said, adding that the last time the action plan was revised was in 2011, before the financial crisis hit the country.

Even if national renewable energy targets are revised downward, the quest for energy storage remains because it will add to the grid’s stability and efficient management.