The Current Situation and Perspectives on the Use of Solar Energy for Electricity Generation:Spain


Despite the reductions in support for solar power systems, the country now delivers electricity in the TWh range, making solar power bigger than hydro or coal. Spain now produces more electricity generated using wind and solar power than California. According to Red Electrica sources, Spain generated nearly 3 % of its electricity from solar energy in 2010. In 2012, the participation of solar power in the country’s energy mix reached 4.78 %, an increase of 1.78 % with respect to the level reached in 2010.

Until recently, Spain’s FiT was too high and had no flexibility to react to an oversupplied market, but this shows how quickly renewable energy, and solar energy specifically, can ramp up given the right energy policy. By getting the balance right between FiT rates and protecting the ratepayer, Spain has provided a road map for other countries to avoid mistakes and achieve successes in solar energy production.

Despite criticism of Spain’s past solar energy policies, projects and commercial solar panels installed in 2007 and 2008 are producing commercial quantities of electricity. The electricity consumption reached around 260 TWh per year.

According to the Global Market Outlook for Photovoltaic Until 2015 report, the situation of solar PV in Spain is very specific. With limited possibilities for the export or import of electricity, the power sector faces a situation of theoretical overcapacity. In recent years, several tens of GWs of wind power and gas power plants have been installed, alongside almost 4 GW of solar PV systems. Today, solar PV supplies 4.78 % of the electricity demand in summer and 1 % in winter, reaching as high as 15 % in summer for some regions such as Extremadura and Castillaa-Mancha. This puts a serious constraint on the future market in Spain, if energy policies remain unchanged.

The recently published NREAP has set a target of 8.7 GW of solar PV installed capacity by 2020, which translates into an annual market of 300–400 MW to 2016. Under the Royal Decree 1565/2010 (2010) and Royal Decree-Law 14/2010 (2010), the future remains unclear, establishing important tariff reductions, especially for the ground-mounted installations segment. The new system basically allows for the development of a rooftop solar PV market only. The major setback, however, has been the introduction of a limit (for the next three years) on the number of hours for which the producer will receive the full tariff. This limit affects retroactively all solar PV plants installed under the previous Royal Decree. The number of hours depends on whether the solar PV modules are using a tracking system or not. From 2014 onward, this limit will be set according to geographical location.

In 2007, Europe’s first commercial CSP plant (11 MW)15 was inaugurated near the sunny Southern Spanish city of Seville. The CSP plant in the municipality of Sanlucar la Mayor, 25 km West of Seville, took more than four years to build, from July 1, 2001, to December 31, 2005. Known as PS10, the project produces electricity with 624 large movable mirrors called “heliostats”. Each of the mirrors has a surface measuring 120 m2 that concentrates the Sun’s rays to the top of a 115-m-high tower where a solar receiver and a steam turbine are located. The turbine drives a generator, producing electricity. PS10 is the first of a set of solar electric power generation plants to be constructed in the same area that will total

The Current Situation and Perspectives on the Use of Solar Energy for Electricity Generation-0094

more than 300 MW before 2015. Power generation will be accomplished using a variety of technologies. The first two power plants to be brought into operation at Sanlucar la Mayor are the PS10, the world’s first tower technology, solar thermoelectric power plant constructed for commercial operation, and Sevilla solar PV plant, the largest low-concentration solar PV plant in Europe (see Fig. 4.18).

The Sanlucar la Mayor solar power plant will produce enough energy to cover the consumption of some 180,000 homes, equivalent to the needs of the city of Seville, using the CSP plant and other technologies. Partly financed with EU funds,16 the entire project requires an investment of €1.2 billion euro. The investment required to build the CSP plant amounted to €35 million, with a contribution of €5 million from the EU’s Fifth Framework Program for Research, awarded for the project’s innovative approach.17 The Sanlucar la Mayor solar power plant will prevent the emission of more than 600,000 metric tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. The EU is seeking to increase the share of renewable energies in its consumption to 20 % in 2020.

Solar Power Installed Capacity

After an agitated year in 2009 (123 MW of solar PV modules was traded this year, out of which only 17 MW was actually installed and connected to the grid) with strong adverse lobbying and possible retroactive legislation measures, about 370 MW was installed in 2010 out of the total of 500 MW permitted by the restrictions adopted by the government. At 2012, the new installed solar power capacity reached was about 277 MW, which represents 93 MW less than the new capacity installed in 2010. The total installed solar power capacity in 2012 reached 5,166 MW, which represents 12.2 % of the total renewables capacity installed in the country in that year. According to the total solar power capacity installed in the country, Spain occupies the place number six at world level (5.16 % of the world total) and the place number three (7.17 % of the total) at regional level. During the past ten years, the solar power capacity installed in Spain increased in nine of them.

Despite withering criticism of Spain’s once-thriving solar industry, projects installed during the boom years of 2007 and 2008 are producing commercial quantities of electricity. The network operator’s preliminary report on 2010 says that solar energy produced 6.9 TWh from 4 GW of generating capacity, mostly solar PV, for 2.7 % of supply.

Electricity Generation Using Solar Energy

The evolution of the generation of electricity in Spain using solar energy during the period 2008–2012 is shown in Fig. 4.19.

According to Fig. 4.19, the generation of electricity using solar energy in Spain during the period 2008–2012 increased 3.1-fold. Despite of the decrease registered in the generation of electricity using solar energy in 2012, it is expected that Spain will continue to use solar energy for the generation of electricity during the coming years despite the introduction of a limit (for the next three years) on the number of hours for which the producer will receive the full tariff.

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