PPAs driving ground-mounted solar deployment in Spain as 2020 installs reach 2.8GWp

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Opdenergy’s 50MW Zafra PV project in Spain’s Andalucía region. Image: Opdenergy.

Merchant solar and projects backed by power purchase agreements (PPAs) drove ground-mounted PV deployment in Spain last year, as the country installed its second-highest yearly amount of 2.8GWp, new figures from trade association UNEF reveal.

While the figures are down on 2019 – when the country deployed 4.1GW of ground-mounted solar, its highest ever level – UNEF said the results last year were historic because no state aid was required to support new developments.

In terms of self-consumption projects, 596MW was deployed in Spain last year, the highest ever amount in the country and up 30% on 2019.

The deployment updates form part of UNEF’s 2020 annual report, which revealed Spain was Europe’s leading market in terms of PPAs. “Practically all” large-scale PV projects installed in the county last year were backed by PPAs, the trade body said.

Among the PPAs announced in 2020 was a ten-year agreement between developer Solaria and energy trader Axpo Iberia for 150MW of solar projects, while Acciona secured a deal to supply 100GWh of renewable electricity per year to telecommunications company Telefónica.

Spain last year introduced a new renewables auction mechanism, with the first auction under that system taking place in January and awarding more than 2GW of solar capacity.

As well as providing stability for the development of new projects, the auctions will help Spain reach its clean energy objectives, UNEF said, which include the target of having 39.2GW of installed PV capacity by 2030 under its national energy and climate plan. To reach that figure, the country will need to deploy approximately 2.7GW of solar per year for the next decade.

In terms of utility-scale deployment, it is expected that 2021 will follow a similar trend to 2020, as projects awarded from the auctions are still being developed. Deployment figures for the beginning of 2021 were “very promising”, UNEF director general José Donoso told PV Tech earlier this year. This year could see as much as 3GW of ground-mounted solar deployed, while some projects awarded in January’s auction could be connected to the grid in 2022.

The new auction mechanism will support the deployment of at least 10GW of solar PV by 2025. While UNEF welcomed the results of the first auction, it reinforced calls for a separate auction for energy storage systems or renewables-plus-storage projects to help the country meet its target of 2.5GW of deployed battery storage by 2030.

The UNEF report also revealed that Spain’s PV sector last year supported almost 59,000 indirect and direct jobs and contributed €3.7 billion (US$4.4 billion) to the country’s GDP.

“With this data on the table, we are convinced that the photovoltaic sector will bring economic growth and job creation to the country, at the same time it will contribute to the increase of its biodiversity and the fight against the climate emergency,” said UNEF president Rafael Benjumea.

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