Portuguese grid operator to invest €70 million to accommodate more solar

Portugal’s grid operator, Redes Energéticas Nacionais (REN) is planning to increase grid capacity in the southern part of the country to accommodate more large-scale solar power over the next few years.

According to the new investment plan for the period 2018-2027 (Plano de Desenvolvimento e Investimento da Rede de Transporte de Eletricidade para o período 2018-2027), which is currently undergoing a public consultation on the website of local energy authority, ERSE, REN intends to invest up to €70 million to enlarge grid capabilities, embracing both the southern regions of the Algarve and Alentejo, and including the municipalities of Orique, where several large-scale PV projects are currently being developed.

This new 400 kW infrastructure, REN said in the plan, is expected to enable the deployment of around 800 MW of new PV capacity between 2024 and 2026. More capacity, REN said, may be deployed depending on the impact studies, which will be conducted on REN’s operations, as well as on the capacity that is currently allocated for the region of Sines, which may also become available for more solar power

According to ERSE, it has received interconnection requests for around 3 GW of solar plants over the past years. “These projects are mainly distributed between Alentejo and Algarve,” the regulator stressed in the report.

The number of “grid-parity” PV projects in the south of Portugal, on the other hand, has increased considerably over the past months, as the spot market and bilateral PPAs were identified as two feasible options in a market without direct incentives and high solar radiation.

Overall, the Portuguese Directorate General for Energy and Geology (DGEG) has approved unsubsidized solar projects with a combined capacity of 756 MW to date.

In mid-January, the DGEG said it was also reviewing another 91 PV projects totaling 2.2 GW for approval. Not all of this capacity, however, will have the chance to be grid connected, due to limited capacity. For this reason, the Portuguese government is currently seeking to define a mechanism for the project selection, the details of which are still unknown.