"The netherlands are currently one of the hotspots in europe,” says michel chatelin, partner of law firm eversheds sutherland.
He advices both national and international clients on all aspects of energy projects. “In the past few years we have seen more and more parties who want to set foot on this market. Companies who want to build solar parks on a utility-scale with capacities of 20, 30, 40 Megawatts of even more.”
While other countries have pushed back or deteriorated their feed-in tariffs, the Dutch government expanded its SDE+ subsidy budget, making the country one of the most attractive PV markets for investors in Europe. Chatelin sees all kinds of parties being interested. Both contractors and developers specialised in building solar parks, finance companies and investors who want to buy and exploit turnkey built parks. They sometimes join forces with Dutch partners or start daughter companies. With their corporate approach they are developing larger scale solar parks.
Combined with the cooperative attitude of the Dutch authorities and the promised extension of the successful SDE+, the Netherlands will face an enormous increase of PV capacity, Chatelin expects. Jaap Baarsma, Chairman of the Dutch PV industry association Holland Solar, predicts a tenfold increase of the PV capacity in the next ten years.
From this year on the subsidy share for pv within sde+ has increased enormously. Combined with larger scale building and further cost and price reduction, i predict an increase to 20 gigawatts of pv capacity in 2027, compared to the 2+ gigawatts we have now,” he says.
In 2016 subsidy was granted for 1,1 Gigawatts of solar capacity. Baarsma thinks an increase in grants of 4 or 6 Gigawatts of PV projects will be possible this year. Under SDE+ 2017 round I already 2,6 Gigawatts of PV capacity was applied. “A lot of foreign companies are astonished about the possibilities this country offers. Since we have an open market more and more foreign parties want to take part in Dutch PV projects,” he says. Josefin Berg, senior analyst for the IHS solar research group, is more reserved in her predictions than the Dutch experts. “We project that the Netherlands will have 7 Gigawatts of total installed PV capacity by 2023. Reaching 20 Gigawatts by 2027 would be aggressive, but not impossible,” she says.
Market researcher Peter Segaar is not surprised by the foreign interest. Indeed, he predicted this. “Solar parks are built on larger scales and the SDE+ budget has increased. That attracts larger, more professionally operating parties”, he says. “I see an acceleration now the PV market is catching up.”
A few years ago, solar park Ameland was Holland’s biggest with a capacity of 6 Megawatts. In 2016 near northern town Delfzijl 31 Megawatts solar park SunPort was built, until then the biggest ever. This year it may already be exceeded by Solarpark Zeeland in Vlissingen, which will have a capacity of 50 Megawatts. SunPort is being financed, built and exploited by German company WIRSOL. Belgian, German and British companies, or newly Dutch satellites they have founded, participated in several other solar projects.
Berg also thinks larger scale projects are important. “To really ramp up growth, the Netherlands would need to support larger utility-scale PV projects. But that will also pose challenges in terms of land use and permitting,” she says.
According to Segaar 20 Gigawatts in the coming years is possible, but its spatial footprint is starting to cause problems. Both Baarsma and Segaar think larger solar parks will encounter problems with space planning and local communities. Segaar thinks the solution lies in involving local communities through crowdfunding or tax free participation through the so called Postcoderoos regulation for specifically allocated, physically separated segments of new solar parks. Baarsma thinks government commitment is essential, for instance by making large infrastructure like highways and dikes available to PV. A lot of public authorities already are using the possibilities of dispensable and unneeded space for solar parks.