In recent years, self-generation of electricity using solar energy has grown enormously in Spain, both for residential and industrial use. This time we will set our sights on the generation of electricity and the sale of that energy to the national grid system. What should I ask myself if I have a plot of land and I want to take advantage of it by installing photovoltaic panels?
There are many considerations to take into account, both when it comes to knowing if our land is suitable to house this type of facility and later when evaluating whether we can have enough generation to make the investment profitable. Next, we will analyse each of these questions step by step.
First thing first.
How to know if I can have a connection point to the network?
If we have a farm or a large plot of land and are thinking of exploring the photovoltaic energy sector to get more out of it, the first thing we must evaluate is whether or not our land is suitable to house such an installation. And, for this, we must take into account two factors.
On the one hand there will be the land classification. Land, both in urban and rural settings, are associated to a specific use by the general planning of each municipality. In this sense, the use allocated to each plot of the municipality is assigned. As general uses we can have infrastructures or green areas, for example, and as specific uses it would be considered if they are for residential, industrial, cultural use, etc. For our purposes we will need the land to be qualified for industrial use. If this is so, we can continue with the process.
The boom in self-consumption: global distributed solar energy will triple the Spanish electricity system in five years, according to the IEA
At this point it is also convenient to review the possible conditions that our plot has. With this, we refer to any type of installation or existing infrastructure that may interfere with the activity that we want to propose. The existence of motorway or roads, for example, will limit the available land space for the new activity. The existence of high or medium voltage lines on the ground may technically affect the possibility of installing the panels that we are considering. Also in case we are in a green protected area or where there is a deposit of any kind this may imply the impossibility of carrying out an industrial activity of any nature. In other words, we must be able to assess whether our land is legally free to be able to house a photovoltaic solar installation.
Once we have confirmed these two points, it is time to request the grid connection point from the distribution company that operates in the area where the land is located. The request to obtain a connection point should be issued within 60 working days we must receive a response from the distribution company with the confirmation or denial of the connection point, always duly argued.
In the event that the connection is denied due to limits in the capacity of the existing power line, the company will have a legal obligation to provide an alternative connection point.
In addition, Red Eléctrica de España must issue a favourable Access Feasibility Report (VAT), authorizing the injection of renewable energy into the grid by the photovoltaic plant that is being proposed.
What if our land had not been qualified for industrial use?
What would happen then? In this case, the land may be requalified through the corresponding project of “Changing of Use” through the city council, and only in case of having confirmation of the mentioned requalification can we continue with the previously mentioned process. In this sense, when carrying out this procedure, we must generate an activity report in which the local authorities is explained what is going to be done in the land, with the activity that we request to carry out. Here it will be justified that both the installation and the activity will comply with all the requirements that the applicable regulations request.
How to know if my investment will be profitable.
Once the connection point approval is obtained, it is time to really assess how much energy I can produce on my land and what the profitability of the project will be.
The first step at this point will be to be able to assess the available solar resource in the area where the land is located. For this, numerous tools are available that provide us with data according to specific regions and areas. One of them is the Solar Radiation Atlas provided by the State Meteorological Agency. Another easy-to-use tool that the European Union makes available is PVGIS, in which we will not only be able to see the solar resource in each location, but also allow us to evaluate different situations already applied to the case of using photovoltaic panels.
How to install solar panels in a plot of land
Having a global vision of the implications in the approach of a solar project of this type, it is convenient not to forget the context in which this activity is developed. Photovoltaic energy is divided into two very different segments that evolve unevenly: self-consumption and generation to inject into the grid system.
Self-consumption will have exponential growth in the coming years and then stabilize with stable growth for a decade. However, the situation does not seem so encouraging for the generation segment, as far as refers to the incorporation of new facilities. We are experiencing a large increase regarding connection permits and a depletion of the capacity assigned to non-viable projects. Valuing the committed capacity in relation to the installed capacity, or in execution, we may find ourselves in a situation that is not in line with the data obtained when quantifying all the MW that have supposedly been granted to develop, execute and produced.
Thus, we are in a situation in which the market is experiencing a fictitious saturation due to the approval of non-viable projects. The administration should intervene to regulate all those procedures that are not aimed at running a plant, avoiding the creation of parallel markets for auctioning access and connection permits. Until this happens, during the next years the approval of new projects and the authorization of new connection points will be irretrievably burdened.
Below we show the various purposes to produce electricity.
Self-consumption facilities connected to the network.
In this type of installation, the user continues to be connected to the electricity grid at the same time that he produces electricity through his photovoltaic installation. This modality allows the energy from the electrical network to be used when our plates do not produce. Within this modality we can differentiate two alternatives:
Installations with discharge of surpluses to the electrical grid: The consumer dumps the electrical energy produced by his solar panels and which he is not able to consume throughout the day. This modality allows the application of the net balance and is the most common today.
Without discharge to the grid.
Installations without discharge of surpluses to the electrical grid: The consumer who does not wish to dump their surpluses to the grid, must install an anti-discharge system that ensures that no energy is injected into the system. It is not the most recommended after the publication of the new Royal Decree. Now any Kw pumped to the grid can be discounted (not all) from you next electricity bill.
Remote self-consumption facilities.
The consumer is totally disconnected from the electricity grid and uses only the energy generated by his photovoltaic modules. This type of facility is usually accompanied by a set of batteries to store the surplus.
Other photovoltaic installations.
Solar panels for a company or business. The installation of solar panels in a company is very interesting, given that the peak hours of work coincide with the hours of maximum solar irradiation in most cases. This will allow installations of more than 100 kW where the net balance does not apply, can also be very profitable.
Solar panels for pumping or solar irrigation.
Self-consumption for solar irrigation allows the solar energy produced by the photovoltaic modules to be used to transport the water from a well to a tank through a hydraulic pump for agricultural purposes.
Solar panels for a motorhome.
The self-consumption installations in motorhomes allow the user greater independence as well as being very easy to install.
How long does it take to install solar panels?
Thanks to the simplicity of photovoltaic technology, the installation times of solar panels are very short compared to other systems. Therefore, the times of a photovoltaic installation for self-consumption in a home, can be done within a week in most cases of course it will depend of the quantity of Kws required, the number of panels to be installed, and the type of system self-consumption that we need for our home.
How much does it cost to install solar panels?
In 2020, the average price of a photovoltaic installation is around € 300-400 per m2 installed, with an average energy production of between 10 and 15 kWh per month per m2. Advances in the efficiency and cost of solar panels have led to an 80% reduction in prices from 2010 to 2019, allowing solar energy to become a viable alternative for all types of housing.