Spain hits 5 GW milestone

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The Spanish solar market showed strong growth in 2018, despite improvements to its regulatory framework for renewables – and self-consumption in particular – only being implemented late in the year.

According to provisional data released by Spanish solar energy association UNEF, 261.7 MW of new PV systems were installed last year, representing an increase of 94% on the 135 MW installed in 2017, and a significant leap from the 55 MW and 49 MW registered in 2016 and 2015, respectively.

Of last year’s new capacity, around 90% (235.7 MW) came from power generators for self-consumption, a quarter of which were related to grid-connected self-consumption for agricultural use. The remaining 26 MW came from ground-mounted solar, which has reappeared in Spain after several years’ absence.

If the numbers are confirmed, Spain’s cumulative PV capacity will stand at more than 5 GW.

Reasons to be cheerful

The main reasons for last year’s growth, according to UNEF, were price reductions which have seen the production cost of solar fall 80% in a decade; the cost advantage offered to business by self-consumption – and the associated positive influence of the European Renewable Directive on self-consumption frameworks; and the cancellation of charges and tolls such as the infamous solar tax.

Bigger growth is expected from this year as a result of the auction the Spanish government held in July 2017, which allocated around 3.9 GW of PV capacity. Projects selected in that procurement exercise must be grid-connected by the end of this year.

The European PV association SolarPower Europe has formulated three scenarios for the growth of Spanish PV in the next year: a ‘low’ scenario predicting 1,731 MW of new capacity, a ‘mid’ scenario forecasting 3,266 MW, and an ‘high’ scenario, which foresees 9,798 MW of new solar. The group’s Raffaele Fait, speaking at the V Solar Forum in Madrid in November said: “With 4, 5 or 6 GW, Spain will be the leading European market in 2019.”