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Solar a ‘new backbone’ of global power, Vattenfall says

Vattenfall has co-located solar and wind at the Parc Cynog site in Wales (pictured). Image: Vattenfall.

Vattenfall has co-located solar and wind at the Parc Cynog site in Wales (pictured). Image: Vattenfall.

Solar stands to be a “new backbone” of the power sector as it cements its status as the world’s “dominant new build generation technology”, Vattenfall’s head of solar and battery storage has said.

Earlier this year the Swedish state-owned utility announced that it was to invest €100 million in European solar deployment over the next two years. That investment is to be predominantly made into utility-scale solar farms co-located with wind and/or storage due to the complementary nature of the technologies.

Speaking to Current±, Claus Wattendrup, head of solar and battery storage at Vattenfall, said the company feels that the “time is right” for solar as the technology is edging closer to grid parity in numerous markets.

“I see solar as a new backbone of the energy industry,” Wattendrup said, adding that continued price reductions in both the technology and other costs associated with deployment had resulted in the solar sector becoming a “different ball game” to how it was before.

And this maturation has resulted in other large energy incumbents - not just Vattenfall, but the likes of Shell and BP - picking up the PV mantle.

“It's the price level, [solar] has been quite expensive and it has been small - just a few megawatts - and in the past our companies have thought mainly in gigawatts of conventional capacity. This paradigm was based on a mix of all kinds of different reasons,” Wattendrup said.

As this paradigm has shifted and solar deployed in the hundreds of megawatts, if not gigawatts, big energy majors have become increasingly attracted. Both BP and Shell have acquired stakes in developers – Europe’s Lightsource and US-based Silicon Ranch respectively – in order to increase their standing in the technology and its application.

Vattenfall considers that its experience in wind development lends it the necessary skillset to adapt to solar, but Wattendrup reserves particular criticism for any power player that doesn’t pick up PV.

“If you don't manage [solar] as a serious player, you're doing something wrong. Therefore everyone's moving into this in a serious manner. There's no greenwashing, this is serious,” he said.

Claus Wattendrup was speaking to Current± for a feature-length article published in this month’s edition of sister publication PV Tech Power, which can be read in full here.

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