Solar energy continues to rise in Spain, with historic record in May

40 years after its introduction, solar energy already supplies half of Spain with electricity

by Lorraine Williamson
solar energy

Solar photovoltaics have become the second technology with the most megawatts generated in Spain. In this process, light is converted into electricity by solar cells. For the month of May, solar power surpassed regular electricity generation for the first time.

In 1984, 40 years ago, a space technology was introduced in Spain that had been used outside the Earth since 1958. Iberdrola started the first photovoltaic plant connected to the electricity grid with a capacity of 100 kilowatts in San Agustín de Guadalix.

Solar Energy Pilot Project

At the time, it was a pilot project with an investment of 462 million pesetas, about €250,000. The expansion of solar energy did not go smoothly and for almost a decade the San Agustín de Guadalix photovoltaic plant remained the only one on the peninsula.

Until then, photovoltaics were hardly used. Especially in homes that didn’t have traditional electricity. It wasn’t until a decade later that photovoltaic installations and the use of more sustainable energy sources began to attract interest with a series of pilot projects. Such as the installation of solar panels by the Institute of Solar Energy of the Polytechnic University of Madrid, at the time with 13.5 kW peak. And the power plant in Toledo, which at the time, when up to 1MW was installed, was the largest solar power plant in Europe.

Law as an impetus for renewable energy sources

The adoption of the Law on the Promotion of Renewable Energy Sources and the Plan for Renewable Energy Sources provided the necessary impetus to make photovoltaics the second technology with the most megawatts installed in Spain, ahead of combined cycle gas-fired power plants.

At the end of May, the Spanish generation park had a total of 125,622 megawatts of installed capacity. 31,219 MW involved wind technology, 26,543 MW solar photovoltaics, 26,250 MW of combined cycle and 17,097 MW of hydropower, according to data from Red Eléctrica de España.

More than one-fifth of the energy generated is solar energy

With these figures, solar photovoltaics now represent 21.1% of the total installed capacity in Spain. Only wind energy provides even more energy, with a share of 24.9%. Together, they are largely responsible – along with hydropower and nuclear power – for the drop in electricity prices in recent months. The total share of renewable energy now stands at 62.4%.

The acceleration has taken place since 2020, when installed capacity was increased by 127.5%, from 11,700 MW four years ago to the current 26,543 MW.

May is a top month for renewable energy

And in May, solar power was the leading technology in electricity supply for the first time, accounting for 23.8% of the total. Renewables produced 13,520 gigawatt hours in May, up 16.4%, and reached a 63% share.

Solar panels produced 5,098 GWh in May, up 31.6%, a record for both production and share. The record occurred on May 24, with a share of 29% the highest in its history. Wind power was the second most productive technology with 20.2% of the total, followed by nuclear power with 16.5% and hydropower with 14.3%.

Cogesa Expats

This “green” May meant that 81.4% of the electricity produced in Spain was free of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2). In the past year, wind power has been the largest contributor to the mix with 25.2%. Nuclear power (18.3%), hydropower (16.9%), solar photovoltaics (15.1%) and combined cycle (10.4%) followed.

A promising future for solar energy

The share of photovoltaics will continue to increase in the coming years thanks to Spain’s National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan (PNIEC). The 2030 targets for reducing the use of fossil carbon for fuels and materials foresee that this technology will deliver 76 GW by the end of the decade. This is for both self-consumption and for installations on the ground. Wind energy will then generate 62 GW.

Falling electricity prices

Wind and solar energy, together with the release of hydroelectric power thanks to thaw and rainfall, has caused the Spanish electricity market to reach a record low. On some days even with negative prices at certain times of the day.

The average daily price of the wholesale electricity market, known as the “pool”, recorded its lowest month since it became operational in April at €13.67/MWh, and in May it closed at €30.4/MWh.

Own use lags behind in Spain

In total, 22% of Spanish homeowners have installed solar panels or have started the process. This means that they have requested information, started the paperwork or that they are seriously considering the purchase.

However, a recent report by Sotysolar and the photovoltaic employers’ association UNEF on self-consumption shows that only 5% of homeowners have already installed solar panels on their single-family home or apartment between 1 and 4 years old

Of the remaining 22%, 17% are seriously considering installing solar panels or are already in the process of doing so. 78% don’t even consider it.

Regions with the most solar panels

The northeast (Catalonia and the Balearic Islands), central Spain and the south (Andalucia) are the areas with the most solar panel owners. The Canary Islands stand out as the area with the most potential customers working on an installation or seriously considering it, followed by the North West.

The high initial investment is the main obstacle for 25% of homeowners. For apartment owners, living in a block and the approval of the neighbours are an obstacle to installation (44%).

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