Greece's PPC to launch tender for 200MW PV project

Public Power Corporation (PPC), which controls 95% of Greece’s retail electricity market, will imminently launch a tender to find a partner to build what will become the world’s largest PV array.

Athens-based PPC hopes to select a financial partner by this summer, with construction at the €600m ($810m) project, which will tip the scales at 200MW, to commence by the end of the year and be finished by mid-2012.

The array will be located in Kozani, northern Greece, and, alongside an associated module factory to be built near the site, will create 200 permanent jobs. The project will produce an estimated 260,000MWh of electricity a year.

“This is a great step toward the fulfillment of a viable energy policy for our country, as well as a new growth prospect for the local community,” says PPC chief executive Arthouros Zervos.

If completed on time the Kozani project will blow past an existing 97MW array in Canada to become the world’s largest PV installation. However, its reign will be short lived, as the US Energy Department has just awarded a $967m loan guarantee to NRG Solar to build the 290MW Agua Caliente PV park in Arizona.

Once one of Europe’s top producers of renewable energy, PPC is now deeply dependent on lignite for its power. Zervos has said the firm faces a devastating €800m annual CO2 bill from 2013 under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme unless it can drastically reduce its carbon footprint.

PPC intends to lift its renewables capacity from today’s 160MW to about 1.2GW within five years, including 700MW of wind and 250MW of PV capacity.

Prime Minister George Papandreou has repeatedly stressed that a transition to a low-carbon economy will be at the centre of Greece’s strategy to dig itself out from under its financial crisis. The Greek economy is likely to contract for a third consecutive year in 2011.

Greece has long been seen by the solar industry as a market of vast potential given its excellent irradiation levels and the high price of electricity on many of its far-flung islands. The sector has been bogged down by the country’s notorious red tape, but the government claims it is taking pains to streamline the consenting process.

Greece’s generous solar feed-in tariff – made all the more attractive by falling subsidies elsewhere in Europe – is already attracting a strong current of interest.

UK-based developer Nur Energy recently inked a contract to use BrightSource’s proprietary heliostat-based CSP technology for a proposed 38MW project on the island of Crete.