Canadian Solar Enters Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe doesn’t tend to shine in conversations about solar energy development. But that might be changing.
Canadian Solar shipped 3.3 megawatts of its solar photovoltaic modules to Plodiv, Bulgaria earlier this month for a major solar installation there. And the company is cultivating strong relationships with suppliers and installers in what it anticipates will be a major emerging market. Bulgaria offers an attractive feed-in-tariff in its highest sun irradiation areas, said Canadian Solar spokesman Daniel Heck.
The project in Plodiv receives a massive 0.25 euros per kilowatt hour FIT. And the subsidy, aside from being high, is particularly attractive to investors and lenders for another key reason. “The FIT paid for energy produced by PV is fixed over a 20 years,” Heck writes in an email interview, “which reduces investment risk and ensuring investor’s return on investment.”
While the Bulgarian government is expected to reduce the FIT payout by the end of June, Heck said it’s still going to be an interesting market for Canadian Solar, which might find its focus shift to rooftop system development rather than utility-scale solar projects like the one in Plodiv. While Bulgaria is enticing solar manufacturers like Canadian Solar into the country with subsidies and incentives, it’s not the only country in Eastern Europe that solar companies are intrigued by. Both Slovenia and Romania have strong stimulus programs for solar that include FITs and green certificates, Heck said. When analysts discuss major emerging markets for solar development, they typically reference Asia and the United States. Eastern Europe doesn’t often pop to the top. But Heck said the potential is tremendous. It has just taken some time for the market to take shape.
“It has taken several years for Bulgarian legislators to enforce an attractive framework that would stimulate the development of photovoltaic in the country,” Heck writes. But since mid-2011, the solar PV market has taken off, he said.
There is a lot of competition in the Eastern European market, Heck said. Just because there isn’t a lot of buzz about it, doesn’t mean those in the solar industry aren’t working there. But Canadian Solar got into the market early and started developing relationships and partnerships in the countries. It’s early entry into the market has helped establish Canadian Solar there. “Customer’s perceive Canadian Solar products as high quality and trust it as their preferred supplier,” Heck writes.
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