Despite grid constraints and an uncertain regulatory framework, projects for big solar parks are proliferating in Portugal.
The nation’s Ministry of Economy has announced in a press release that 81 new large-scale, ground-mounted solar power plants with a combined capacity of 1.7 GW were submitted to the Directorate General for Energy and Geology (DGEG) between September 1 and September 15.
“All of these projects will be developed under [a] market regime … they will not be supported by public subsidies paid by consumers,” the Portuguese government said. “Portugal is willing to comply with its 2020 goal of 31% incorporation of renewable energies into [its] final energy consumption. Looking forward to 2030, the European goal was set at 32%, but we have the more ambitious goal [of] 40% of renewables in energy consumption.”
The government’s solar plan – the Plano Nacional Solar – has aimed to identify Portugal’s more suitable areas for the development of utility-scale PV, and to support the creation of “a remuneration scheme based on market prices … without subsidies paid by consumers, through the national electric system”. It is unclear if the scheme will include a mechanism for the mixed wind and solar auctions recommended by the European Commission to member states, but that appears unlikely.
The most concrete option for utility-scale solar in Portugal instead seems to be the corporate PPA segment, where the first contracts are now being signed and construction of the first facilities has begun.
In mid August, Portuguese Secretary of Energy Jorge Seguro Sanches revealed the total capacity of approved large-scale PV projects totaled 1 GW, with the last three projects amounting to 145.5 MW greenlit for the district of Santarém, in central Portugal.
Most of the projects, however, will have to compete to secure grid-connection, as grid constraints are preventing all of the new approved capacity coming online in the short term. Portuguese energy regulator Entidade Reguladora dos Serviços Energéticos (ERSE) recently approved a network expansion plan which is expected to ease PV development.