Spain is the sunniest country in Europe, making it an ideal location for solar power. And in the last five years the country has jumped at the opportunity. In fact it appears Spain will easily meet their goal of 12 percent renewable energy by 2010, with at least 400 megawatts of solar power.
How did Spain turn it around in just a handful of years? By following Germany’s example; implementing aggressive government incentives to attract solar power production. In 2004, the Spanish government passed Royal Decree 436/2004, which equally promoted both solar thermal and photovoltaic (PV) power plants, along with introducing feed-in tariffs.
In the time since, Spain has risen to the fourth largest solar power producer in the world, and more specifically, a frontrunner in the adoption of new solar thermal technologies. In 2007, near Seville, Europe’s first commercial concentrating solar power-tower plant came online. A separate, 15 MW solar power-tower plant will utilize molten salt energy storage. The power-tower will be able to store energy for 16 hours and deliver power 24 hours a day. There were at least five solar thermal power plants planned in Spain as of the start of 2008.
Photovoltaics are also prevalent in Spain. BP Solar is creating quite the presence there as they construct a 300 MW solar cell manufacturing plant in Madrid. Spain has several existing PV installations, although they are small in size relative to some of the larger projects in Germany and here in the United States. Spain’s largest PV plant is the Parque Fotovoltaico Olmedilla de Alarcon at 60 MW.
Spain is also taking steps in the residential solar sector. Spanish law now requires that all new and remodeled private residences be equipped with solar hot water systems. Building codes also mandate some PV power to offset requirements for all new and remodeled commercial buildings.
While BP Solar certainly has a powerful presence in Spain, the country’s largest “homemade” solar company is Isofoton. Besides being Spain’s largest, Isofoton is the eighth largest PV manufacturer in the world, focusing on mono crystalline solar cells. The company is also involved in solar thermal projects both large and small.