While exhibiting solid growth over the past three years, the Dutch large scale PV market has been severely limited in projects over the same period. This might be set to change with the latest round of the SDE+ subsidy scheme receiving a high number of PV applications.
The roughly 2.5 GW of solar that applied for subsidy under the SDE+ autumn tender round comes additional to the 179 MW of solar PV awarded under the spring SDE+ announced earlier this year. In the spring round, some 1.12 GW of solar projects applied for SDE+ funding.
While this all points to the most promising development of the Dutch large scale PV market, there remain fears that many successful projects will not end up being built. Difficulties in project funding and very low SDE+ subsidy bids have resulted in there being some skepticism in the market as to the feasibility of a large number of solar arrays granted SDE+ payments. Projects bigger than 15 kWp can apply under the SDE+.
"The SDE+ is a tender system and a lot of companies, and municipalities apply for SDE+ on a very low tariff, so that the project is never able to turn a normal profit," explains Profinrg’s Cees van de Werken. Profinrg is a solar distributor and acts as EPC on larger projects.
The SDE+ is paid for ten years, with the project able to sell electricity on the wholesale electricity market. After the SDE+ payment period, the wholesale price is the only likely revenue stream for the project, unless it is developed under a PPA.
"The government has factored in that projects can get a wholesale price around €0.045/kWh, but maybe [in reality] they can get €0.03 or €0.035/kWh. For large, ground-mounted projects, where there is no consumption on site, the financials are worse than on sites where the electricity can be used at the site itself," says van de Werken.
This dynamic has resulted in C&I rooftop arrays making up the majority of large scale solar installations in Holland. But even on the commercial rooftop, the financials under recent SDE+ rounds remain challenging.
“What you see now the companies that really want solar on their roof signing up [to the SDE+] at under €0.105/kWh just to have some subsidy,” says project developer KiesZon’s Frank Heijckmann. “But big projects that need more [subsidy], there just won’t be any subsidy and will have to wait until spring next year.”
There have been some positive signs from the economic ministry as to what the spring 2017 tender will have in store for solar, however Heijckmann is not overly optimistic. “There is a lot of hope,” he says. “But we have had hope for two years but no reasonable subsidy.”
The 2014 SDE+ tender rounds saw a record 883 MW solar PV projects awarded. However, it’s widely understood that only around 20% of these have actually been installed thus far. Project developers have a three-year deadline contract for successful SDE+ arrays, and Profinrg’s van de Werken reports that some activity on this front is finally being observed.
"What we see is a lot of public [EPC] tenders on the market right now," says de Werken. "Government municipalities and water companies are putting tenders on the market right now, while before we would see schools and universities [opening project tenders]. But now a few ground mounted systems are being tendered as well."
The largest EPC tender on the Dutch PV market to date is for a 10 MW project, although Profinrg’s van de Werken says that the largest SDE+ project comes in at around 50 MW.
Successful projects under the SDE+ round are expected to be announced before the end of this year.
The November edition of pv magazine includes a feature article on smaller and emerging European markets, including the Netherlands. To subscribe, click here.