Why are Spanish solar firms investing in the US?

Explore how Spanish solar companies navigate market challenges at home and expand their presence in the lucrative US solar sector.
  • Published by
    Gabriel Cañadas

    Gabriel Cañadas

    Business developer

28 Aug, 23

Solar energy is playing a key role in the European energy transition, and Spain is an important player. In fact, until being overtaken by Germany in 2023, Spain was the number one solar PV market in Europe.

Despite the success within the industry, Spanish solar firms are increasingly looking to diversify, with many deciding that the US market is the ideal place to do it. There are several reasons why this trend has emerged, and we will explore those in depth throughout this blog.

A snapshot of the Spanish solar market

Factors such as Germany’s large market, its ambitious objective to install 215 GW of solar capacity by 2030, and strong political support were all key reasons why the country overtook Spain as the leading solar photovoltaics (PV) market in Europe this year. That being said, Spain’s dynamic solar story remains influential.

Spain’s impressive standing extends beyond Europe’s boundaries, too. In 2022, the Spanish PV market installed 6.93 GW and has a pipeline loaded with future projects.

Do you want to learn more about the renewable landscape in Spain? Check out our State of Green Iberia E-book to find out why the Iberian peninsula has recently emerged as a major player in the renewable energy market. 

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Spain’s strategic goals for renewable energy are lofty but achievable. The fact that the total installed photovoltaic power capacity has almost doubled in three years shines a light on its unwavering commitment to renewable energy. On top of this, they aim to generate 81% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and strive for carbon neutrality by 2050. The National Climate and Energy Plan has set its sights on reaching 160 GW of installed power from renewable generation by 2030 and 22 GW from storage.

This robust market growth and ambitious vision have led the international market research institute, IHS Markit, to rank Spain as the fifth most attractive market for renewable energy globally.

What sets Spain apart in the solar industry is the profitability of large solar plants, even without government subsidies. Small self-consumption residential PV systems are also gaining traction due to recent regulatory changes.

Spain's track record on renewable energy is commendable, in 2021, the government dedicated €450 million to stimulate the industry's development further.

Spain is expected to continue playing a significant role in the growth of solar and wind capacity as the European Union looks to shift away from fossil fuels. Spain has the highest solar yields in the EU, good availability of land, and Europe’s largest solar pipeline. Other favorable factors include its diverse gas supply, stable power prices, and strong renewable energy outlook. Spain is well positioned, but it does have some challenges to contend with.

Key challenges driving Spanish solar investment to the US

A somewhat uncommon problem, Spanish solar power producers face the risk of over-investment due to escalating renewable penetration. An abundance of eager investors may drive solar prices to drop below €20/MWh before 2030, casting doubt over the profitability of power purchase agreements (PPAs) and merchant projects. There are currently 60 GW of approved large-scale renewable projects, with an additional 65 GW of PV capacity requested to be deployed by 2030.

Projected capacity is anticipated to overshoot the current energy strategy’s forecasts by 2030. The solar power sector is set to blaze past 50 GW, while wind power could potentially lag behind, not quite touching the 40 GW mark. One extreme model suggests that the revenue disparity in solar power between moderate renewables with high battery and renewable penetration could be significant and see prices dipping below €20/MWh by 2025.

Beyond the issue of over-investment, Spanish solar firms also grapple with permitting hurdles. Due to bureaucracy and lengthy permitting processes, securing permits for solar and wind projects can take approximately five years, a significant bottleneck that needs to be addressed.

The complexities of the domestic solar market in Spain have led more and more solar firms to seek out greener pastures, with their attention turning to the promising US market.

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Spanish solar firms investing in the US

Some of Spain’s most significant energy and solar companies are venturing into American soil with a clear agenda: to set up extensive solar installations and contribute to the global commitment to tackle climate change. While the focus remains on environmental stewardship, it’s hard to ignore that the move also aligns with strategic diversification in response to the challenges faced at home. Among the Spanish firms looking to the US, here are five worth keeping an eye on.

Iberdrola

Iberdrola is a Spanish energy giant that has spread its footprint across 25 US states, becoming one of the top three renewable energy companies in America. Avangrid, Iberdrola’s subsidiary listed on the NYSE, boasts over 9,500 MW of generating capacity and more than 170,000 kilometers of power lines. The company’s ambitious offshore wind projects like Vineyard Wind 1 and the Kitty Hawk development area further solidify its position in the US market. With the takeover of an offshore wind portfolio, Iberdrola is set to invest over $15 billion, becoming a global leader in offshore wind technology.

Find out why Iberdrola partners up with RatedPower and how they use the platform to design and engineer photovoltaic plants. Read this success story now!

Repsol

Next up is Repsol, an energy company making inroads into the US market by acquiring a stake in Hecate Energy, a significant player in the American solar power sector. Though the stake’s size remains undisclosed, the deal marks a shift in strategy for European oil and gas companies like Repsol. The firm is planning to enhance its renewable generation capacity, addressing climate change concerns while meeting investor and government demands.

Matrix Renewables

Matrix Renewables has also marked its territory in the US by acquiring a portfolio of 4.6 GW solar energy projects from SolarStone Partners. This acquisition diversifies Matrix Renewables’ portfolio, helping it develop a stronger presence in the United States and making it a major player in renewable energies in North America, Europe, and Latin America.

Watch this video to learn how Matrix Renewables use RatedPower to save time and resources.

Naturgy

Naturgy is actively investing in renewable energy projects in the US, with plans to invest a massive 14 billion euros by 2025. The company's strategy to target stable geographies like the US aligns with its commitment to promote a more sustainable energy mix.

Grenergy

Grenergy has also taken strides into the US market with the acquisition of Sofos Harbert Renewable Energy, having recently acquired the remaining shares from their initial 40% stake. This move allows Grenergy to leverage the US energy market's expected PV solar energy growth, marking the company's strategic expansion into a third region.


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What you should do now

Whenever you’re ready, here are 4 ways we can help you grow your solar business and reduce LCOE of your PV plants.

  1. Get hands-on with a free RatedPower self-service guided tour. If you’d like to learn the ins and outs of how top photovoltaic software can help your engineering team, go ahead and request your free demo. One of our solar experts will understand your current design and engineering workflows, and then suggest practical tips on how to speed up them though the right tool.
  2. Let's get physical, physical! Learn the latest on renewable energy and PV in the second edition of Pulse, our annual get-together full of technical workshops, inspiring talks from energy leaders and tons of networking. Learn more.
  3. If you’d like to learn insights, ideas and inspiration for the low-carbon energy transition for free, go to our blog or visit our resources section, where you can download guides, templates and checklists solar successful pros use.
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Gabriel Cañadas

Business developer

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