Spanish solar hits historic generation record in month of lockdown

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REE stats showed PV generation reached 1.049TWh over March 2020, a 29.1% jump on the March 2019 numbers and the highest PV figure ever seen in the country. Image: Enel Green Power

Spain’s PV players broke their own records in a month when the country ground to a halt under quarantining measures over the COVID-19 crisis, according to new official figures.

Spanish grid operator REE said the technology is “lighting the path” to the energy transition after its own stats showed PV generation reached 1.049TWh over March 2020, a 29.1% jump on the March 2019 numbers and the highest PV figure ever seen in the country.

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The month-long record – achieved as Spain confined millions and closed non-essential businesses – included individual milestones, such as PV’s success in covering 25.6% of all GWh produced nationwide at 14:29 Spanish time on 29 March 2020.

As REE noted, Spanish PV’s record-breaking moment follows major additions to installed capacity in 2019. At 4GW-plus added over last year, the country rolled out more megawatts of the technology than anywhere else in Europe and boasts now a cumulative 9GW.

March 2020 is “only the beginning” for Spanish PV, REE said, adding: “Despite the fact that sunlight hours are fewer in this month than during the summer months, solar is already flexing muscles and anticipating something – that this will be a good summer.”

PV players accept restrictions amid faith in bounce-back

REE’s March 2020 update brings bright news after an otherwise tricky month for Spanish PV. The past few weeks alone have forced players to navigate supply chain bottlenecks, compulsory factory shutdowns and the government-mandated freeze of construction work at home and abroad.

An online session conveyed recently by nationwide PV body UNEF opened a window into how operators were grappling with the fallout. Some, including Ingeteam’s solar PV director Juan Carlos Jadraque, appeared ready to sympathise with business restrictions.

“Of course PV is strategic but there are many aspects at play,” Jadraque said. “Grid control centres cannot stop but if you’re making components for a plant that may not even be in Spain – let’s be honest, use [contract] clauses, speak to your clients and so forth.”

For his part, Powen’s CEO José Benjumea acknowledged the firm's self-consumption installation work has had to stop too but said he believes the segment is poised to bounce back, driven by its inherent appeal at a time when people will strive for self-sufficiency.

“The first thing a company does when there is uncertainty is to paralyse everything, especially investment, and self-consumption will clearly fall into that,” he said. “However, I believe the standstill will be temporary because self-consumption’s strengths are there, perhaps even more so.”

The prospects and challenges of solar's new era in Europe will take centre stage at Large Scale Solar Europe 2020 (Lisbon, on 30 June-1 July 2020).

This publication has also set up a tracker to map out how the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting solar supply chains worldwide. You can read the latest updates here.

If you have a COVID-19 statement to share or a story on how the pandemic is disrupting a solar business anywhere in the world, do get in touch at [email protected] or [email protected].

Credit for story image on PV Tech's homepage: Victoriano Izquierdo / Unsplash

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