The Dutch company Soto Solar has been developing and investing in large-scale solar photovoltaic self-consumption projects in this market since it was established in Spain in 2018.
The company is currently working on the ERASMO project. This is the largest solar farm in Spain, with an installed capacity of 1,000 MW, battery energy storage and green hydrogen production.
What drew you to the Spanish market to develop and invest in solar energy projects?
Two of things that appealed to Soto Solar were Spain's excellent solar resource and the support from institutions to promote solar energy, which is the renewable energy source with the highest estimated growth (increasing by239% up to an installed capacity of 39 GW in 2030). The Spanish solar energy market, together with its roadmap for energy storage and green hydrogen development, are in line with Soto Solar's objective of becoming an established long-term player in the Spanish solar PV power industry.
Soto Solar was founded by Dutch companies Stecc and Hartenlust Group and started operating in Spain at the end of 2018. We took our experience in the Netherlands, through the company Sunrock, which is a leader in the rooftop solar market in that country, and applied it to Spanish market needs. This solid track record in developing and investing in solar PV power, combined with the long-term prospects for the Spanish renewable energy industry, underpin the company's growth plans.
What projects are you working on?
Soto Solar is currently developing a pipeline of projects in different stages and in excess of 1,500MW, with the goal of building a 2 GW pipeline by 2025. As part of its development of large-scale plants, the company has acquired a 200 MW pipeline in different stages of development. Soto Solar is also working on the ERASMO project. This is the largest solar farm in Spain, with an installed capacity of 1,000 MW, battery energy storage and green hydrogen production. A 100 MW pipeline is being built in the self-consumption field, despite only having been created recently,, and work has begun on several approved proposals that will start at the end of this year.
What are the features of your solar plants?
Our large-scale plants feature cutting-edge solar PV power technology, often combined with storage. They are located in areas with maximum solar radiation (Zones IV and V) and optimised production. All projects strictly comply with environmental regulations.
Our self-consumption plants are targeted at electro-intensive industrial companies and logistics customers. For industrial companies, we focus on off-site solutions that cover a greater part of the demand than rooftop installation. For our logistics customers with large surface areas and a lower energy demand, we provide innovative solutions for collective self-consumption together with other consumers in the same area, achieving profit maximisation for the power plants.
You raised more than 100 million euros in capital in a short space of time to fund growth over the next five years. What are your expectations for that time frame?
In July 2019, Soto Solar raised more than 100 million euros in capital in a first round of financing for project development. This reinforces the company's commitment to achieving its 2GW goals by 2025 and, beyond that, to becoming an established player in the solar PV power industry in the long term. As these goals are achieved, we do not rule out more capital fundraising in the coming years.
You are developing the largest solar power plant in Spain. How will it help to meet Spain's energy transition goals?
This unprecedented scale for a solar PV power facility clearly contributes to achieving the energy transition goals: the project will account for 4% of all new solar energy and 12% of storage by 2030 in Spain. It will also help to tackle the demographic challenge (creating more than 2,500 jobs and €2 billion of gross value added). Soto Solar has also signed a strategic agreement with Enagás Renovables to boost the production of green hydrogen associated with the ERASMO project, through an on-site hydrogen plant (up to 100MW). This collaboration agreement will also explore various hydrogen use options in line with the hydrogen roadmap guidelines, and could account for up to 0.25% of H2 production by 2030.
Despite the hours of sunshine in Spain, only 0.1% of households self-consume. What needs to change to improve this percentage?
We believe that for the rooftop revolution to take off in Spain, the traditional bureaucratic barriers to this type of installation must be eliminated and depreciation periods must be reduced. Also, many people in Spain live in in homeowners associations, which have delayed the approval of many projects due to the COVID crisis. Finally, clear legislation on energy communities and collective self-consumption would be the last nudge needed to achieve the new Spanish energy transition goals.
Spain ranks high in terms of large-scale solar energy plant projects. Is it one of the most attractive markets to invest in?
Spain offers the best solar radiation resources and has regulations that promote large-scale solar energy plants, alongside respect for the environment. A flexible regulatory framework that adapts to market needs and developments, but one that is stable in the long term, underpinning the development of large-scale solar PV powerprojects, will allow the objectives set out in the PNIEC (National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan) to be achieved. Soto Solar is committed to this long-term development model which will position solar energy as one of the main drivers for energy transition.