Report: Spain’s solar power capacity to see strong growth

19 July 2023 2 min. read

Solar power is growing steadily in Spain as the national climate plan means it will soon be ‘lights off’ for nuclear and coal power.

Analysis from AFRY Management Consulting shows healthy growth in the Spanish solar power industry. Wind power is also expected to be ramped up to meet demand as coal power plants will be phased out by 2025 and nuclear plants by 2035.

Currently, Spain has approved 60 gigawatts (GW) of large-scale renewable projects. UNEF, the Spanish solar power association, is now urging the country to revise its energy strategy to accommodate an additional 65 GW of photovoltaic (PV) capacity installation by 2030.

Report: Spain’s solar power capacity to see strong growth

AFRY Management Consulting’s projection of power capacity for 2030 is slightly lower than that of PNIEC, the Spanish government’s official energy sustainability plan put into place to meet the Paris Agreement. Despite the two analyses mostly matching, the management consulting firm predicts 6 GW less than the Spanish government, with the consultants expecting less offshore wind and slightly more PV solar capacity.

Spain is particularly well positioned to dominate the solar power industry in Europe. At the same time, however, the phasing out of nuclear power, if done too soon and at a moment when the renewables market is not yet ready, could cause a significant increase in demand for natural gas.

“While, for example, in Northern Europe, the average production time for a photovoltaic plant is 950 hours, in Spain a photovoltaic plant is active between 1,900 and 2,000 hours. We can then add to this the economy of scale effect, with so much territory to build large plants, while in Northern Europe there is not as much,” said José Donoso, Director at UNEF.

Report: Spain’s solar power capacity to see strong growth

There is, however, a potential downside to growth in the sector: Solar power producers in Spain may soon face prices lower than €20 per megawatt-hour (MWh) by 2030 if the use of renewable energy keeps growing. Such extremely low prices would make solar power unprofitable.

Spain currently has five nuclear power plants in active operation in regions across the country, generating around 20% of the country’s power, putting it just behind wind power. The oldest nuclear power plant in Spain was shut down in 2006 and another one was decommissioned in 2012.

Most of Spain’s nuclear installations were built in the 1950s and 1960s, the later period of the dictatorship of Francisco Franco when expanding public works was accelerated in an attempt to alleviate stagnation and poverty. A large and vocal anti-nuclear movement began to develop in Spain around the time when the dictatorship was coming to an end in the early 1970s.