Sun-drenched Spain should be a natural for solar energy, and it is here that the technology is making an effort to stand on its feet financially without subsidies.
Investors are now betting again on solar power generation in Spain, which for a decade was in the shadows as the country cut subsidies for the clean but expensive source of energy.
A plunge in the price of solar panels and lower construction costs has changed the maths, and new projects are moving forward again.
Iberdrola, Spain’s largest power company, this month launched a solar project with a capacity of 425 megawatts.
And last week Spanish renewable energy firm Cox Energy signed a deal for the construction of 495 megawatts of capacity in Spain, and another 165 megawatts in neighbouring Portugal, in a 400-million-euro ($490 million) investment.
Companies have sought authorisation for solar power projects across Spain with a total capacity of 24,000 megawatts, according to the director general of Spanish solar power lobby UNEF, Jose Donoso.
That is the equivalent of 14 of the latest generation nuclear power plants that France hopes to launch later this year, after a decade of costly construction.
Spain was one of the pioneers of solar power-generation. Subsidies in the form of a high purchase price for solar power lured investors and homeowners to install solar panels, triggering an installation boom in 2008 that saw Spain’s installed capacity jump five times to 3,355 megawatts.
But the global financial crisis, which ravaged Spain via a collapse of the property market, led to a bust in new projects and the cash-strapped government was quickly forced to abandon the subsidies.
Just 49 megawatts was added in 2015, and 55 megawatts in 2016, before picking up to 135 megawatts in 2017, according to UNEF figures.
However in Germany, which kept up its subsidies, solar power swelled by six times although the country does not receive as much sun as Spain, meaning each panel produces less electricity.
The country now has more than 40,000 megawatts of solar power, compared with 5,400 in Spain at the end of 2015.
But the sector has undergone “a complete reversal in less than six months”, according to Donoso.