solar thermal electric

European Renewable Energy Directive: a golden opportunity for the Spanish concentrating solar power sector

Requests for permission to connect 15,000 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) to the Spanish electricity grid have been received by the Spanish grid operator, Red Eléctrica de España. Current legislation in Spain will make it difficult for CSP developers to reach this figure, however the arrival of the European Renewable Energy Directive could help them to realise their projects on Spanish soil.

The EU new legislation enables Member States facing difficulties in meeting their 2020 objectives to import clean electricity, at least statistically, from other Member States in order to meet their targets. A considerable amount of this electricity could be generated in Spain through its burgeoning CSP sector.

Last week Valeriano Ruíz and Luis Crespo, President and Secretary General of Spain’s Solar Thermal Electric Association (Protermosolar) invited journalists to the Solucar CSP plant in Seville and the Solynova CSP complex in Granada to put forward their plans for Spain’s CSP industry. During the site visits, they explained that they had put forward a proposal to the Ministry of Industry and the president of the Spanish government, asking them to “sell the country”, both politically and commercially in the most clear and concise manner possible.

“Countries wishing to import clean electricity to meet the objectives established in the European Renewable Energy Directive do not even have to physically import this energy, all they have to do is account for it statistically when calculating their energy balance”, explained Luis Crespo to Renewable Energy Magazine.

Crespo believes that this represents a great opportunity for Spain and is just what the solar thermal electric sector in Spain, especially in light of the current hiatus in the sector due to legislative delays. “Red Eléctrica has currently received grid connection requests for 15,000 MW of CSP and even more projects are in the pipeline. If another country was able to pay the feed-in tariffs required, we could bring all these projects on-line. This would also mean that the tariff burden would be supported by other countries rather than deepening Spain’s tariff deficit. It would also enable Spanish companies to consolidate their position and advance technologically,” he said.

Valeriano Ruíz and Luis Crespo emphasise that the manageable nature of solar thermal electric power is critical to achieving this level of penetration. Improvements in grid interconnections between Spain and France are also key if electricity generated in Spain is to be exported to other EU countries. This move would also help push forward development of major intra-European high-voltage direct current grids.

Once these issues are resolved, the 15,000 MW of solar thermal electric power “could be absorbed directly”, they explain. Indeed, Crespo reports that capacity in Spain could even rise to an impressive 50,000 MW, which could then be used locally and exported. Meanwhile, Protermosolar has called for the Government to include an objective of 15,000 MW in Spain’s new Renewable Energy Plan 2011-2020, which it is currently drawing up.

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