Spain has the second largest installed capacity in European and is world leader in terms of capacity per habitant, with 75.2 watts per capita. This technology truly took off in Spain in 2008. In that year, 2,715 MW of capacity was installed, representing an increase of 500% from that installed in 2007. Constantly falling photovoltaic panel prices, which reflect the economies of scale and improvements in the technological learning curve on a day-to-day basis, coincided with financial optimism, the diversification of many companies' activities, and regulatory changes, to drive this technology to levels that were unimaginable a few years previously. This was true not just in Spain but across Europe, where installed capacity was doubled in 2008, with 4.6 GW being added to take total accumulated photovoltaic capacity to 9.5 GW, according to EurObserv’ER data.
In September 2008, Royal Decree 1578/2008 was enacted, establishing a Registry of preliminary assignment of remuneration and a maximum annual cap of 500 MW for photovoltaic power. This new legislation aims to provide the sector with a good foundation and ensure its continuity by avoiding peaks and troughs that cause market imbalances, promote the installation of rooftop arrays, and give a signal of economic efficiency to this technology.
The level of development achieved appears to offer sufficient guarantees to look forward and search for new ways of increasing the penetration of this form of solar energy. Photovoltaic technology costs are dropping rapidly, which could enable this technology to play an important role in the Spanish electricity sector, whether it develops as a distributed or as centralised generation system.
Spain has always been at the forefront of photovoltaic research. One only has to look at the world leading Institute of Solar Energy (IES) of the Polytechnic University of Madrid, for example, which is 30 years old. More recently, the Institute of Concentrating Photovoltaic Systems (ISFOC) in Puertollano (Ciudad Real) stands out, which groups together the largest number of pilot plants using this technology in the world. These plants use very high-efficiency cells, with efficiencies that even exceed 40%. Its researchers are called upon to partake in numerous projects around the world.
The entire value chain
The Spanish photovoltaic sector includes companies operating across this industry’s entire value chain from cell manufacture to the development of arrays both within and outside Spain. The strength of this sector is underlined by the fact that several companies that are solely dedicated to photovoltaics have been floated on the stock market. Only the production of polysilicon, essential for manufacturing crystalline cells, has not been conducted to date; although a number of businesses are working to cover this gap with the support of the GovernmentMilestones