RWE, Greek utility build 210 MW of solar at former lignite mine
It’s a rainy day in Athens with regular thunderstorms. Yet, Germany’s RWE and Greece’s PPC electric utilities have made their first step towards the development of a 2 GW photovoltaic pipeline that aims to tap into Greece’s rich solar resources.
The two firms have announced the construction of five solar farms totaling about 210 MW in the Western Macedonia region, northern Greece, within the boundaries of the former Amynteo open-pit lignite mine. The construction work is scheduled to start in spring and all five projects should be fully operational by the end of the first quarter of next year.
RWE and Greece’s state-owned utility PPC will pursue their photovoltaic business strategy in Greece via a new company, Meton Energy S.A., set up especially for this purpose and owned 51% by RWE and 49% by PPC. Meton has already signed bilateral power purchase agreements (PPAs) with third parties concerning the purchase of solar power to be generated by the plants. The duration of these PPAs ranges between 10 to 15 years, says an official press release.
Meton Energy has also secured financing for the majority of the €180 million investment needed for the development of the five solar parks. Of this, €90 million will be European Union funds as part of Greece’s implementation of the national recovery and resilience plan, which is the EU’s post-pandemic recovery plan. The remaining will be covered via commercial debt financing of €54 million from Greece’s Eurobank and Alpha Bank, plus €36 million of shareholders' equity.
“The financing is subject to financial close,” adds the press release, which also provides information about the joint venture's 2 GW Greek photovoltaic pipeline. PPC has contributed nine solar projects with a combined total of up to 940 MWp and RWE has contributed projects of similar size.
Meton Energy offers RWE and PPC the opportunity to diversify their portfolios away from fossil fuels. Both firms were laggards in embracing renewable energies in the previous decade, but the new decade has marked a shift in their interests toward green power, especially for Greece’s PPC, which three years ago announced plans to install 3 GW of new solar pv capacity in Greece’s lignite regions. In the last year, Greece’s plan to phase coal out of its electricity generation has entered shaky ground due to the war in Ukraine and the resulting energy crisis. However, the Greek government says it remains committed to the country’s energy transition. And, three positive developments have marked the last twelve months regarding solar installations within former coal mines. Firstly, PPC announced last week it reached financial close to develop a separate 230 MW solar park on a former coal mine. Secondly, the PPC tendered in the summer the construction of a giant 550 MW solar farm also to be built on a former coal mine. And thirdly, German renewable energy developer Juwi completed a 204 MW solar plant in a Greek mining region in April. All three developments are separate from the RWE and PPC partnership and they add to Greece’s effort to diversify the local economy of its mining regions.
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