On the surface, the last several months have been good for installers and solar developers as panel prices have come crashing down. Not only has the United States seen a substantial reduction in installed costs of PV installations but Europe has also experienced a rapid decline in panel pricing of close to 30% from one year ago.
There´s been a number of year-end solar reviews that have done an admirable job of summing up the market in 2008 (Greentech Media had a nice article here) while providing a view on industry growth for 2009.
From a financing perspective it seems fairly obvious that the liquidity crisis will have an adverse effect on new project development worldwide for months and quarters to come.
But this same financial downturn has yielded a nice bumper crop of cheap, quality PV panels with manufacturers desperate to sell excess stock. However, where to put them and what markets to focus on will plague many international solar developers.
A few weeks ago I ran a blog regarding the allegations of fraud in the Spanish Solar Sector (news that was published several weeks later at GreenTechMedia.com). The story has since taken a few predictable turns (indignation, a period of silence, crossed fingers, etc) and has now reached the point that the National Energy Commission (CNE) is ramping up the pressure with legal and legislative measures. Specifically, the CNE intends on bringing punitive charges against solar developers who knowingly fabricated paperwork in connection with the September 30th deadline, surpassing what many thought would merely be a series of fines followed by acceptance of the grid connection. It appears that the authorities are taking this very seriously, and rightfully so. If solar is to be a force in distributed generation it should be as much for reasons having to do with transparency as for the simple nature of the technology. The authorities should be applauded on their hard line towards any malfaesance especially given the dismal reputation of the real estate sector.
An interesting series of newsflashes have appeared in the Spanish press in the last few weeks. The articles were mainly re-hashes of a CNE (National Commission for Energy) report on the state of Spanish PV, but they made two pointedly interesting statements.
Firstly, 3300MW of PV have apparently been installed in Spain, close to double the administrations expectation of 1600MW as of one year ago. That´s a stunning climb from the 371MW mark as of September 2007 and probably explains the giant sucking sound of global panel supply disappearing into the greedy Spanish maw during early 2008.
New photovoltaic projects have grown at a phenomenal rate in Spain in the last several years, reaching around 1500MW of new installations in the last 12 months (from 250MW built over the past 5 years) and accounting for an enormous amount of global PV panel demand. However, the land of eternal sunshine seems to have gone dark these last few months with almost no publicity on new project development.
A quick scan of Greentech media and Greenbiz.com still shows a substantial number of new projects in the California area while Spain-based energias-renovables.com is showing almost no dealflow for new installations. What gives?
Today is the first day I´m blogging for Cleantechies and in fact, the first day I´ve ever blogged on my own so anybody reading this with a highly developed sense of blogger-etiquette please be patient while I learn which fork to use.
I´ve been living in Barcelona for 5 years now and for the last 2 and a half years after graduating from IESE Business School, I have been working with a renewable energy firm based in Barcelona called Blue Green Capital. We are solar developers working in Spain, France, Israel and other feed-in tariff markets. While we may not drive a pick-up truck and wear aviator sunglasses, we often have muddy shoes and drink a lot of beer, both of which are useful social lubricants in our line of business.
So after completing and exiting our first two projects in Spain with a US trade investor and a Spanish engineering firm, we´ve been dedicating most of our resources to building up a solar portfolio. The feed-in tariff system in Spain has been enormously lucrative in the last 2 years, hovering around €0,40 to €0,44/kWh. Many promoters and players, ourselves included, took advantage of the juicy subsidy to close on projects whose IRRs were 12% or more. But as could be expected, the Spanish government got nervous at underwriting solar projects at such a high cost, and radically revised the subsidy system downward; attaching a performance bond of €500/kW for all new ground-mounted systems in addition to pushing the feed-in tariff to a more-manageable €,32.