Renewables

Bulgaria enjoys solar boom as biggest photovoltaic parks come online

Bulgaria enjoys solar boom as biggest photovoltaic parks come online

Photo: Alfred Grupstra from Pixabay

Published

August 31, 2023

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Published:

August 31, 2023

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In a matter of months, Bulgaria’s total solar power capacity is set to exceed 3 GW, compared to just 1.3 GW at the end of 2021. The lineup in the list of the largest photovoltaic plants is changing almost every week as major facilities come online, and there is more in the pipeline.

In the last two years, the combined nameplate size of solar power installations in Bulgaria has doubled to more than 2.4 GW and additions peaked this summer. Moreover, in the current top 20, no photovoltaic units built since 2021 benefit from any subsidies, data compiled by Capital.bg showed.

The facilities in the list, with 1.28 GW altogether in peak terms, mostly have domestic owners. Thirteen of them, including the seven largest ones, have been commissioned in the last two years, breaking almost a decade-long stagnation in the country. Their share is 84% or 1.07 GW.

Conversely, households and institutions interested in installing solar panels for self-consumption are still stuck with administrative hurdles

In the statistics of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Bulgaria had 1.28 GW at the end of 2021 and 1.95 GW just one year later. The measure is expressed in nominal or peak capacity. It is different than connection power, which can be lower by 20% or more depending on the level of solar irradiation, land configuration, type of panels and other factors.

At the same time, households, local authorities and activists in Bulgaria are complaining of an incomplete legal framework both for the installation of rooftop photovoltaics and other systems for own use and the establishment of energy communities. The authorities are currently working on changing the Law on Energy.

Another stagnation looming amid market uncertainty

Since there is no state register of photovoltaics, the news outlet conducted a survey of available official reports and spoke to investors. It calculated that 700 MW is expected to be commissioned in the next several months, meaning that the 3 GW mark would be surpassed. But other projects are mostly on hold due to electricity market uncertainty, the report reads.

Journalists also pointed out that a substantial number of investors built relatively smaller capacities for their own needs in the last two years.

One of the most important factors in the photovoltaics landscape is the government’s initiative to turn coal land including currently active facilities into solar power plants. The article adds that more than 4 GW is envisaged for the Maritsa East Mines (Mini Maritsa iztok) complex alone. For the time being, the chart with the largest PV units is changing week after week.

Biggest solar power plants in Bulgaria

Three months ago, Eurohold commissioned its Verila solar power plant of 123 MW in nameplate capacity and a 100 MW connection, the biggest in the country at the time.

Now the largest solar park is Dalgo Pole (208 MW), owned by Santera Re and its subsidiary Galaxy Re, though it is administratively separated into three units. The two partners controlling the company are Anton Shterev and Atanas Petrov, founders of beverage and tobacco producer Vinprom Peshtera. The group is also active in the real estate business, the article notes.

Santera Re has two solar parks with a stunning 409 MW in total

The first section of Dalgo Pole, in the municipality of Kaloyanovo near Plovdiv, was completed last August. It has a peak of 66 MW and a 55 MW connection. The second part, apparently at 50.4 MW in both categories, was commissioned in April, followed by Dalgo Pole 3 (91.6 MW) this month. Seen separately, the three units are sixth, seventh and ninth in the provisional national chart.

Galabovo Solar BG, another subsidiary of Santera Re, is operating a 201.4 MW (150 MW connection) photovoltaic park. But it should be noted that it also consists of three sites: in Obruchishte, Mednikarovo and Musachevo.

The Galabovo municipality is in south-central Bulgaria, in the Stara Zagora province. The facility has just come online. Some of the land is on former mining facilities.

Unicredit Bulbank financed the Galabovo solar park with EUR 97 million while the Dalgo Pole project was funded via DSK Bank. The company said it is negotiating on long-term power purchase agreements for the two giant photovoltaic plants.

Ginka Varbakova’s Real States is building 400 MW photovoltaic park

Number 2 is called Apriltsi. The first part of the project was completed in September 2021 and by now it reached 183.8 MW in peak capacity. But the race for the top position is still on as the developer, Real States, aims to expand it to 400 MW. The connection power, in alternating current, would amount to 300 MW.

The company is controlled by businesswoman Ginka Varbakova. The facility is being built on municipal land in Pazardzhik, in the village of Aprilovo. Total investment is valued at EUR 255 million.

The solar panels in Apriltsi are mounted at a height of more than two meters, allowing for agricultural production below (agrivoltaics or agrisolar). In addition, they are on trackers that shift the devices toward the Sun. The panels are bifacial.

C Energy Group commissions solar park with 100 MW in connection capacity

After Verila, the largest unit is Tera Sol, at 111.6 MW in nominal terms (100 MW). Project firm C Solar energy was established by CSOL invest, a subsidiary of Georgi Zlatarev’s C Energy Group. The photovoltaic park was built last month on almost 120 hectares in the vicinity of the village of Hrishteni near Stara Zagora.

Kiril and Georgi Domuschiev are also in the first league in the sector. They commissioned a 106.2 MW (86.2 MW) solar park in May in industrial park Balkan near Lovech, northeast of Sofia. The facility consists of two units spanning an overall 72 hectares and the investment is estimated at EUR 50 million, according to the article.

The two brothers also have new photovoltaic plants of 49.2 MW and 17.2 MW in nominal capacity which generate electricity for the production facilities of their company Biovet in Razgrad and Peshtera.

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