In an atmosphere reminiscent of land grabs in the Wild West, La Comunidad Valenciana is on track to become a photovoltaic powerhouse, even if only a portion of the planned solar installations are completed in the near future.
There has been a lot of interest in investing in Valencia Province in the last few years, especially since the law that governs the use of solar power production changed. The interest is so strong that the General Directorate of Industry recently confirmed that the Valencian Government receives more than one request per day to build solar parks on Valencian territory.
Only from mid March to mid April, 27 requests have been received. And these are the ones that do not exceed 50MW of generating power because, in that case, the requests are submitted directly to the Federal Government. According to the Ministry’s statement, there are currently 369 requests being processed within a province, as well as another 34 larger projects in the hands of the Ministry of Ecological Transition in Madrid.
The combined power of all projects is 12,000 MW. Let’s put this in context. The total power produced by Cofrentes Nuclear Plant is estimated to be ten times less, around 1,200 MW, and this output is sufficient to meet all of La Comunidad Valenciana’s electricity needs. The nuclear power plant operates 24 hours a day, whereas solar is dependent on the sun, so the calculation is more complicated, but the total requested capacity is nearly double that of Confrentes.
The Valencian government has projected 6,000 MW of production by 2030, up from the current 430 MW, in its ambitious energy plan. If all current requests are granted, this target could be met within the next year or two.
Many of the around 400 applications will be rejected due to duplication, incompatibilities, or a lack of funding. Many applicants are attempting to gain access to generous post-Covid European Funds, and in order to apply, they must have approved projects. However, the solarization of Valencia province is unquestionably underway. Only four larger production facilities have been put into operation in Valencia in the last two years, but it appears that even red tape and the notoriously slow pace of administration will not be able to slow the process any further.
Alicante Province has the most projects in progress, around 170, followed by Valencia (132), and Castellón (67). There are about twenty projects planned in only one town – Villena, seven in Monóvar, three in Salinas, and five in Castalla. In Valencia Province, the most desired location is Villar del Arzobispo with 16 solar plants proposed, (some of which are duplicates), followed by Moixent with five projects..
The search for quality land in the Province is reminiscent of the days of land grabs in the United States, with various companies outbidding each other to be able to instal the solar park. The situation became so serious that people began organising in opposition to the new land owners, attempting to educate the public and anyone who would listen about how dangerous uncontrolled solarization of Valencia Community can be for the environment.
More than half of the hectares in the Valencian Community susceptible to renewables are in the province of Alicante, particularly in areas with vineyards, olive groves, and almond trees. According to La Vanguardia, farmers in these areas are already receiving offers ranging from 1,500 to 2,000 euros per hectare per year for leases ranging from 20 to 30 years. The offer is so good that even the most profitable farmers are considering accepting it.
With the new projects, various wine-producing organisations have gone on the offensive, and many have petitioned the Valencian government for protection. They emphasise that the vineyard is one of the cleanest crops available: it emits oxygen, produces little waste, has few pests, and uses very little water. Stopping production will not only harm the environment, but it will also result in a significant cultural loss, as wine production in Valencia is a part of a two-thousand-year-old tradition and an important part of the cultural heritage.
But, regardless of what is going on right now, solar is the future of Valencia, and the province will become the powerhouse of Spain sooner or later. There are numerous reasons for this, the most important of which is the Sun’s abundance. Massive capital is being mobilised for the change from fossil to renewables in Europe’s current energetic revolution, and while Spain is investing in wind power generation as well, solar is the main focus point. And a lot of power will be required, especially between 2030 and 2050, when Europe plans to begin massive hydrogen power generation.
When that occurs, Valencia will undoubtedly have a large amount of energy to export. It remains to be seen whether it will still have any local wines.