Netherlands’ first unsubsidized solar park


From pv magazine Germany

Swedish energy company Vattenfall is currently in the process of planning the first photovoltaic power plant in the Netherlands outside of the SDE+ program for large-scale renewables.

“We want to become a pioneer in the country,” Annemarie Schouten, Vattenfall's head of photovoltaic project development in the Netherlands, told pv magazine. “In the country, photovoltaic power plants are still preferably implemented through state subsidies, but projects with power purchase agreements (PPAs) are the future.”

The planned 16.8 MW solar facility is to be built with 25,000 bifacial modules in Almere, in the Netherlands' northern province of Flevoland. As the start of construction is planned for 2024, the energy company expects more powerful solar modules to be available over the next few years. In addition, the solar park will use solar trackers, which are expected to help it generate around 18.3 GWh per year.

The photovoltaic power plant will be built on state-owned land, which imposes special requirements, explained Schouten. That is why Vattenfall decided to use the trackers, to provide the soil with sufficient light and water and, thus, increase soil quality and biodiversity.

“It takes a long time to get the necessary permits,” said Schouten. Vattenfall has now submitted the applications for the environmental permit and once they are approved, the company will also enter into a dialogue with the community and residents about the planned project.

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In addition, Vattenfal is trying to secure a grid connection for the photovoltaic power plant. “Getting approval for this is currently generally very difficult in the Netherlands,” continued Schouten. “The network operators are currently only connecting new photovoltaic power plants in a few places.”

However, the network operators have also announced that they want to invest in the expansion of the infrastructure. “This also speaks in favor of a long lead time for the project,” she further explained. “In general, Vattenfall is considering several options for its photovoltaic power plants in the Netherlands and combining them with battery storage in order to relieve the power grid and to get a connection more easily. However, the combined photovoltaic storage projects in the Netherlands are not yet economically viable.”

Vattenfall is also looking for customers who will buy the electricity generated by the solar park in Almere. Schouten is seeing increasing demand from industry in the Netherlands, but still at a very slow pace. “We are already in talks with some local companies,” she stated. “The aim is to conclude one or more PPAs with industrial customers at a fixed price, preferably for a term of 10 to 15 years.”

The experience from the project will certainly contribute to Vattenfall's decision as to whether it will increasingly rely on photovoltaic projects with PPAs in the future. “We believe that subsidy-free parks have a future, even if they are far from a reality in the Dutch market,” she concluded.

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