Spanish energy giant Iberdrola entered European PV in style as it began work on a 500MW project in Spain – and completed a U-turn by a once high-profile solar sceptic.

Iberdrola will invest €300m ($340m) to build the Núñez de Balboa plant in Badajoz, for which the Spanish group said it has already lined up PPA deals with telecoms operator Euskaltel, bank Kutxabank and retailer Uvesco.

The group is planning to build 3GW of solar and wind in Spain’s resurgent renewable energy market by 2022 – the majority of which will be PV.

Iberdrola – one of the world’s biggest wind operators and a major backer of offshore development – was until a few years an arch-sceptic concerning solar’s ability to compete with wind.

But that changed in early 2017 when CEO Ignacio Galan declared: “Now solar in certain places is absolutely competitive with other sources. We change our mind on that one.”

Announcing the start of work on Núñez de Balboa, which will be operational by 2020, Galan said: “It is clear that solar is going to be a pivotal technology in the energy transition. Our extensive experience in developing renewable energy means that we are well-placed to integrate this technology into our global portfolio.”

Solar is now regularly tipped to emerge as the dominant renewable technology in the global energy transition, thanks to its steep cost reductions, flexibility and speed of deployment.

Iberdrola, which is already active in the North American solar sector via Avangrid, the US utility in which it has a controlling stake, will build Núñez de Balboa using 1.5 million modules from Chinese suppliers Longi, GCL and Suntech.