Catalonia is clear about what some of the key aspects of its ‘new’ energy system will be. Under the Prospective Energy of Catalonia (Proencat) 0 million euros, according to calculations by the Spanish Photovoltaic Union (UNEF). For its part, the goal rises to 22,431 and 33,152 MW for 2040 and 2050, respectively.
Specifically, the price of the MW on the ground is around 600,000 euros, while the MW on the roof rises to one million euros. The delegate of the photovoltaic employers’ association in Catalonia, Salvador Salat, pointed out in a conversation with La Información that to reach the goal by 2030, the use of 82 MW per month would be missing, of which 55 MW would be on the ground. It must be borne in mind that Catalonia currently has installed solar power in practically residual soil plants. According to UNEF data, at the end of 2022, it only had 295 MW of the 19,568 MW that existed throughout the country, that is, 1.5% of the total.
Salat, who is also the general director of Sunowatt, stresses that the autonomous community has been harmed in terms of renewable development compared to other regions due to political obstacles. “In 2009, very restrictive legislation was found in Catalonia, which only allowed plants of less than three hectares to be made. This, combined with the stoppage of premiums in 2012, caused us to enter a drought (of projects),” he underlines. In order to facilitate ‘green’ expansion and the installation of solar panels on the roofs of buildings and other urban spaces, Decree Law 16/2019, of November 26, modified the Urban Planning Law. It did away with the surface and distance limitations established in the case of photovoltaic installations located on undeveloped land.
However, it was not enough, and the Government tried again with Decree-Law 24/2021. With this, a series of measures were introduced to achieve greater social acceptance of the use of renewable plants, although many promoters use the opposite effect. The regulations oblige project developers (whether solar or wind) with power greater than 5 MW and located on undeveloped land, must demonstrate the availability, or commitment to availability, of more than 50% of the private agricultural land on which the installation is projected.
In addition, to request the declaration of public utility together with the prior administrative and construction authorization, and the environmental impact declaration, they must prove that they have, at least, agreements with the owners of 85% of the private area that is intended occupy with the project. However, one of the biggest complaints from companies is the obligation to present a local participation offer of 20% of the facility. “With this offer of participation we have not yet achieved the acceptance of the citizenry,” says Salat.
The UNEF delegate in Catalonia believes that the main opposition faced by photovoltaic technology among society is the emotional factor. “As an example, people who go for a walk in the countryside want to see it as it was 10 or 30 years ago, but not with a solar panel. The emotional motive is legitimate and we cannot combat it with reasons. As a sector, we have to find a way to manage this negative emotional perception to understand that this or not exist, it is this or not to have energy, it is this or lose population,” he argues.
In his opinion, renewable installations allow the population to be maintained in rural areas thanks to the creation of quality employment. In addition, he points out that they encourage industrial companies to decide to build new factories near these towns to take advantage of cheaper energy. Currently, Catalonia has requests for solar projects totaling 2,560 MW. These would occupy an area of 4,343 hectares. Currently, there are 39,136 hectares of land occupied throughout Spain by solar plants, of which 590 are in the Catalan community. Of the total requests, 114 MW have been authorized so far.
“These megawatts that are in process have six months left to be approved. If they are approved and can be built, it will be a demonstration that we have changed,” Salat points out. It is undeniable that Catalonia has opted for project management with a high degree of guarantee. Very guarantor means that to make sure that everything is done well, many things are requested. And this means slow. These 114 MW that have been approved have taken approximately three years. Of the more than 19,500 solar MW in Spain, between 2,000 and 2,200 will already have to be working in Catalonia”, explains Salat.