Key takeaways from Solar + Storage España


Solar + Storage España's first edition featured a two-day conference, “The sun of Spain to lead Europe,” curated by pv magazine. The conference started with three inaugural speeches discussing the evolving PV manufacturing landscape in Europe and the United States.

Žygimantas Vaičiūnas, policy director for the European Solar Manufacturing Council, highlighted the practical challenge of accessing finance for EU member states, despite the substantial financial support possibilities unlocked by REPowerEU, the Net-zero Industry Act, and the Temporary Crisis and Transition Framework (TCTF). Spain has been allocated 12.93% of the RePower EU funding, equivalent to €2.59 billion ($2.8 billion), which could realistically enable the establishment of 10 GW to 15 GW of PV manufacturing capacity in the country, contributing to around one-third to half of the EU's 30 GW target by 2030, as explained by Vaičiūnas.

Javier Sanz, a spokesperson for the European Solar Photovoltaic Industry Alliance, emphasized the importance of a product-focused manufacturing competitiveness strategy in Europe. Sanz posed the following question: “What kind of product do we want to sell in Europe?” He also called for stricter carbon footprint requirements and a level playing field. He noted the need for domestic solar and storage manufacturing to compete with China, India, and the United States beyond just price. Sanz also suggested that opex support and subsidized module sales could help balance the price equation.

Eckhart Gouras, the managing director of pv magazine, contributed with a perspective on the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which he called a “big American sandwich.” Gouras presented a powerful illustration of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) in the solar industry, with the top slice of bread indicating upstream support of $0.07/W for “Made in USA” solar modules, and the bottom slice representing downstream support of up to 50% in investment tax credit. Gouras noted the unparalleled industrial policy of the ITC and called for a new globalized approach that enables international players to build localized markets and benefit from its advantages.

The “Going global” session featured representatives from PV Hardware (PVH), Power Electronics, the California Solar and Storage Association (CALSSA), and Atlas Renewable Energy. It highlighted a new era of globalization in the solar and storage industries. Alvaro Casado from PVH discussed the company's decision to open a 6 GW tracker factory in the United States, which predates the announcement of the ITC, and emphasized the motivation behind it: bypassing transportation logistics and providing local support to clients.

Iván Higueras Rivas, CEO of PVH, and David Salvo, CEO of Power Electronics, expressed concerns about Europe's insufficient efforts to encourage domestic manufacturing over the United States. Brad Heavner, from CALSSA, showcased the growth of US manufacturing in batteries and polysilicon. While the United States has experienced a polysilicon revival, both regions still lack the production capacity to meet demand. María del Puy Ayerra, director of development in Spain for Atlas Renewable Energy, noted the need for companies to adapt to cultural differences and approach international expansion with humility, given the challenges in Europe's factory scale and project acceptance.

The session on permitting in Spain featured a fireside chat between Maria Assumpta Farran i Poca from Generalitat Catalunya, and Lucas Monsalve and Inés Monroy from Mediacion Verde. Farran highlighted the limited space in Catalonia and the reluctance of developers to proceed with approved projects. Mediacion Verde emphasized the need for improved communication with local communities to demonstrate the value of renewable energy projects. The session also explored the idea of industrialized areas paying a premium to regions exporting solar and wind electricity.

Benito Montiel from Grupo Cobra, Luis Selva from BNZ, María del Puy Ayerra from Atlas Renewable Energy, and Paula Alonso González from Soto Solar participated in the permitting session, addressing the lack of coordination among different entities in the permitting process, resulting in errors and delays. They also discussed the challenges of meeting project deadlines due to the Spanish Government's Royal Decree-Law. Regarding the large number of recently approved projects, estimated at over 100 GW, panelists predicted that only about half of them would actually be constructed.

In the storage-focused session, Rosalía Rivas Saiz from Red Eléctrica delivered a keynote speech, providing an account of the current cannibalization scenario in Spain, discussing storage access and hybridization projections by April 2023, and explaining the expected surplus of PV and wind production compared to consumption by 2030. Rivas also presented details about the planned grid deployment, its connection to curtailment, and shared other data that attendees were eager to capture in photos.

Luis Marquina, the president of Spain’s storage association AEPIBAL, moderated the session. It involved Javier Revuelta from AFRY, Juan Fraga from Engytek, Eugenio Domínguez from HESSTEC, Iker Labiano from Sungrow EMEA, and Alejandro Pintado from Growatt New Energy.

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The panelists concurred that the regulation of the storage industry is moving in the right direction but at a sluggish pace, emphasizing the need for accelerated government action to harmonize electricity market prices. They also proposed that Spain could enter the storage market using alternative technologies apart from lithium. Revuelta's presentation outlined the concept of ‘socio-economic welfare' (SEW) associated with storage and advocated for collaboration among Europe, China, and the United States in technology development.

The final session of the first day centered on self-consumption and commenced with an expert interview featuring Sergio Layunta from Salicru, a well-established Spanish brand with 57 years of experience in the market and its own technical service. Layunta revealed that Salicru is on the verge of introducing a new hybrid inverter designed for commercial and industrial self-consumption, foreseeing a widespread demand for batteries in this segment in the near future.

The self-consumption panel included José Carlos Díaz Lacaci from Powen, Íñigo Amoribieta from Otovo, Javier Revuelta from AFRY, Jorge Mallén López from Lantania, Carlos López from Aldea Energy, and Vanesa Peñalver from Sunova Solar. They deliberated on the decline in self-consumption during the first four months of 2023, known as the “solar winter,” in contrast to the remarkable growth experienced in 2022. Factors contributing to this decline included the decrease in electricity prices, which diminished demand urgency, and delays in aid allocation. The panelists highlighted the challenges faced in implementing shared self-consumption and solar communities, expressing criticism towards the Government's draft regulation proposal. Some speakers mentioned passing on the 10% to 15% electricity price reduction to clients, while others emphasized offering additional services in exchange.

The second day began with a panel on local manufacturing featuring a keynote speech by Javier Sanz from the European Alliance of the Solar Photovoltaic Industry (ESIA). Sanz emphasized that substantial funding, amounting to millions of euros, remains unallocated due to companies not applying for it. The panel addressed the obstacles associated with reintroducing polysilicon, ingot, and wafer manufacturing to Europe, while also showcasing success stories of companies that received European support, including Abora Solar.

The keynote speech was followed by an interview with Kyle Xu from Das Solar, focusing on the company's expansion plans in Europe and their commitment to becoming a local player. Xu amusingly remarked that although transitioning from establishing module assembly lines to building a complete supply chain in Europe would take time, Spain's delightful cuisine serves as an effective catalyst.

José María Vega de Seoane from Tecnalia, Xabier Otaño from Mondragon Assembly, and Alejandro del Amo from Abora Solar shared three successful manufacturing stories in Europe, highlighting differences in support packages between the US and Europe in terms of size and speed of delivery. The panelists discussed the potential of subsidizing the sale of European-manufactured products and the competitiveness of niche products in Europe. They also welcomed the entry of large companies like Iberdrola into manufacturing, anticipating the growth of secondary industries and the opportunity for these companies to showcase their own products.

The conference concluded with a revamping and repowering session featuring Fermín Lagunas Llorente from BayWa r.e., Asier Ukar from PI Berlin, Víctor Hernández from Ingeteam, and Pubash Yazdani from Escelco. Spain, with its generous incentive program, has become a great testing ground for revamping projects, having installed over 4 GW between 2008 and 2009, surpassing any other country. However, replacing failing components poses challenges. The panel discussed various questions, including the view of banks on financing revamping projects and whether it presents a good business opportunity for O&M companies. Ultimately, after evaluating technical, financial, and legal obstacles, the panelists concluded that revamping is a worthwhile endeavor.

We would like to thank all the speakers, sponsors, and organizers of Solar + Storage España for a terrific conference.

Note: Speaker presentations can shared with attendees when request by e-mail.

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