German utility EnBW has taken a final investment decision to build the 180MW Weesow-Willmersdorf solar array, the country’s largest to date.
Despite building it in the cloudy north-eastern state of Brandenburg, near Berlin, it will be constructed entirely without subsidies.
“This solar farm in its dimension will bring us a strong push for the build-up of our renewables portfolio,” EnBW technology board member Hans-Josef Zimmer said. “We are intensifying the expansion of solar energy, making it the third pillar” of our business.
The company that is majority-owned by the Green Party-led state of Baden-Württemberg will start first cable laying works early next year, and plans to commission the solar array still in 2020.
Subsidy-free solar at EnBW follows up on the utility’s pioneering role in zero-subsidy offshore wind. EnBW was among the first companies bidding at zero in Germany’s first auction for wind concessions at sea in 2017, winning with a 900MW bid for the He Dreith offshore wind project in the North Sea.
With its zero bid, EnBW was factoring in rising wholesale power prices to finance its large support-free project, a bet that so far seems to work out.
The average spot market price for electricity in Germany at the European Power Exchange (EPEX SPOT) during the first half of this year was almost €3/MWh ($3.30) above the previous year, at an average of €38.33, the utility said in its last financial report.
The rolling front year price even stood at €48/MWh, showing that the market expects prices to rise further.
EnBW said large solar projects are the first following hydro-power that can be built without a feed-in tariff from Germany’s Renewable Energies Act (EEG), as the cost of PV has fallen by 80% over the past decade.
“We are convinced that such large solar farms can be operated economically without support,” Zimmer said.
But he added that is only possible if the government continues to give renewables a priority when feeding into the electricity grid.
Smaller solar arrays as those taking part in Germany’s auctions under the EEG continue to need support as their size is capped at 10MW, said Thorsten Jörß, project development manager for PV at EnBW.
EnBW now has a solar development pipeline of around 800MW in Germany.