The noted American thin-film solar cell manufacturer First Solar is aiming to see its modules used in some of the projects that will be developed as part of the 600 MW tender process expected to take place in Germany next year, according to recent reports.
The large tender process is expected to spur the return of large-scale solar project development to Germany, as per industry analysts — which has, unsurprisingly, set the mouths of a large number of solar firms a watering.
The country’s plan is, reportedly, to hold two auctions next year — with around 200 MW to 300 MW offered in each. It’s expected that project sizes will be limited to up to 25 MW capacity per facility. Developers will have only a set amount of time in which to complete their projects after approval if they wish to receive payments. Said payments will be made based on kilowatt-hours, through market premium mechanisms.
On that subject, PV Tech recently spoke to First Solar’s vice president of business development for Europe, Christopher Burghardt, at the EuroSEF conference in Brussels. Here are some of the highlights of that coverage:
Burghardt talked up the potential of three key European markets in the short term: Germany, the UK and Turkey. Burghardt said the market for large-scale solar in Germany “will be back next year with tenders”. When pressed further he revealed that Germany is preparing to launch the 600 MW tender process next year, to be decided by competitive bids.
Burghardt also referred to forthcoming policy changes in the UK and said that these were unlikely to deter the company from seeking opportunities there. Burghardt said that the UK remains a big market within Europe, and said he thought Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) were a good vehicle for promoting the expansion of photovoltaics, with the company expected to continue using the ROCs until the scheme closes to plus-5MW projects next year, to be replaced by the contracts for difference (CfD) centralized pool of funding. He said also that CfDs would not stop First Solar’s activities in the UK.
“The UK is a big market, we are looking to use the ROC scheme, and an end to large plants which is not a big issue, we like CfDs,” Burghardt stated, referring to recent changes to support schemes in the country.
Speaking more broadly, on the topic of energy costs as related to renewable subsidies, Burghardt stated: “Electricity is not inflated because of feed-in tariffs for renewables; the whole energy market is heavily subsidized, not just directly but in so many different ways. With fossil fuels receiving so many different subsidies, how is best to compare?”
As an example, Burghardt brought up Ukraine, noting that it “needs lower FiTs as the government cannot support it, which waivers investment, and solar technology needs room to breathe and grow across Europe.”
“Solar needs the right regulation, not less,” he stated in conclusion.
Hard to argue with that, but with the current state of the market — and the broader economy and geopolitical environment — in the European Union, it seems hard to predict what exactly the next few years will bring.
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