Italian PV market attracting yet more solar “Made in Spain”

Since the Spanish solar photovoltaic (PV) market was decimated by unfavourable legislative changes in 2009 and ongoing uncertainties regarding the retroactive application of cuts to feed-in tariffs, a number of Spanish firms have been turning their attention to neighbouring Italy, where the Nuovo Conto Energia solar PV programme offers succulent feed-in tariffs for new arrays.
Italian PV market attracting yet more solar “Made in Spain”

This year sees this trend continuing, with Spanish solar energy group, OPDE, starting construction of six new solar PV arrays in Piedmont, which will boast a total capacity of 26 MW on completion. Meanwhile, another Spanish solar company, Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV), has turned its attention to constructing a new 6 MW in a disused quarry in Módena.

On completion of the six new arrays being constructed by OPDE Italy, the OPDE Group expects to have constructed a total of 200 MW in Italy by 2012, and by doing so will have accumulated a total investment of €850 million in Italy.

This latest OPDE project will cost in excess of €125 million, while part of the 2,027 trackers to be installed on the new solar farms will be assembled in a factory established by Mecasolar (another group company) in Turin.

The new arrays are located in the cities of Tortona, Alessandria, Pedrosa (in the region of Alessandria) and Fosano (in the region of Cuneo). More than €120 million will be spent on constructing and commissioning the arrays, which the company claims will lead to “the creation of a hundred direct and indirect jobs”.

In the construction of the six arrays, more than 91,000 Trina module units of 230 Wp, 2,027 inverter units SMA model 11000 TL and 2,027 1-axis MECASOLAR trackers model MS-1E PLUS will be used, which have already begun to be assembled in the factory in Turin. The company estimates that new solar farms will be completed by month end, with “the work of the site management and engineering team which OPDE has in Italy” contributing to the speed with which the arrays will be constructed.

OPDE Italy reveals that several investment funds have already shown an interest in acquiring the new projects, as well as part of the 17 MW that the company connected in Italy in 2010. By the time the work on these 26 MW has finalised, OPDE ITALY will have accumulated a total of 43 MW constructed in Italy, along with more than 127 MW that OPDE will have constructed worldwide.

New use for old quarries

Elsewhere, FRV has joined forces with Italcementi to construct a 6 MW close to Guiglia (Módena). Costing a total of €20 million, the new array will cover 20 hectares of a disused quarry belonging to the Italcementi Group, and will generate enough power to meet the demand of 2,000 families.

FRV is owned by GE Energy Financial Services, the Landon Group and Qualitas Venture Capital, and describes itself as “one of the largest solar energy companies in the world”, boasting over 232 MW: 140 in Spain (130 MW in operation and 10 under construction), 41 MW in operation in the US, and 51 MW in Italy (35 MW in operation and 16 MW under construction).

The latest array in the quarry in Emilia-Romagna is expected to be finished in autumn 2011, and will supply enough electricity to satisfy the demand of over 2,000 families.

Last week officials from Italy's Ministry for Economic Development and Ministry for the Environment announced they had reached an agreement with the country's PV industry association to adjust the solar feed-in tariff applicable under the Nuovo Conto Energia. While any adjustments are unlikely to affect the latest projects being developed by OPDE and FRV, it is unclear what the amendments to the policy framework for solar PV could have on future projects and whether or not Spanish companies may once again look elsewhere to expand operations.

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