Aistis Radavičius, Aura Power's Development Manager, met with the community and local government representatives during the Lithuanian Independence Day celebrations in Dūkštas. He said that since last summer, virtually all investors in commercial solar parks in Lithuania have faced legal and regulatory hurdles, but decisions by central government and energy authorities in recent weeks have finally removed most of them.
"News of a pause in the government had reached the population, and we started to hear rumours that developers would stop their projects. Perhaps the central government did not expect such a large influx of investors and really needed time to make some changes to legislation, to carry out studies, to check the projects and to hold discussions. Fortunately, this month the much awaited documents were finally approved, opening the way for developers to take new steps. For our Dūkštas project, this means that we can move forward - within a month, we should receive a development permit, followed by design and actual construction," said Mr Radavičius.
Much of this pause is due to the central government's unexpected decision to limit by law the total capacity of commercial solar parks developed in the country to 2 GW - a limit not found in any EU country. In the end, a compromise was found: not to limit installed capacity but to curtail electricity production in case of a surplus in the system. This is a common practice in Western countries and is not opposed by developers, but they expect the authorities to be more specific about the conditions for curtailment.
"EU regulations do not allow renewable energy production to be curtailed at more than 5%, so transposing this procedure and possible compensation mechanisms into Lithuanian law would give solar park developers and investors peace of mind that they will be able to get funding for their projects. That would also give the grid operator even more incentive to improve infrastructure and prepare for a climate-neutral economy. Not doing so, i.e. not knowing exactly how long a year our park could be disconnected, would create very serious challenges in accessing funding," comments Radavičius.
He thanked the residents and administration of Dūkštas and the whole Ignalina region, as well as the landowners, for their warm welcome and support from the first news about the solar park until now. Aura Power has been involved in sponsoring various community events in Dūkštas for some time and has discussed the possibility of developing recreational and sports infrastructure together with the eldership administration.
The solar park, which is being developed on a 600 ha site, is expected to involve an investment of around EUR 300 million and will be completed in 2025. The company plans to connect the solar park to a 330 kV transmission line. The electricity generated by the solar park would be enough to supply almost 200,000 Lithuanian households.
According to the Mayor of Ignalina, Justas Rasikas, Aura Power's solar park is supported by the people of the region because it will bring significant energy, financial and image benefits.
"I have not heard any objections to this project here. On the contrary, during the energy crisis, everyone realised that electricity is of great value and the more it is produced, the less it will cost. A solar energy project of this size will also enhance the image of our region, and I have no doubt that tourists and other investors will come to see this park," said Mr Rasikas.
Antanas Šakalys, the Elder of Dūkštas, was also pleased with the planned solar park.
"The whole community of Dūkštas is happy that this project is starting. We feel your support and look forward to the further development of the solar park", said the Elder during the Independence Day celebrations in Dūkštas.
Construction is due to begin on the 27MWp solar farm at Casal da Cortiça, Leiria in Portugal whose grid connection capacity was awarded in the 2019 solar power auctions.
Last summer's EU-only restriction on the development of industrial solar parks in Lithuania has left not only dozens of qualifying investors in limbo, but also regional residents, farmers and landowners.
Construction has started on the 204 MWp Rio Maior solar farm jointly owned by Aura Power and Neoen. The energy park also comprises a second solar farm fully owned by Neoen, making the total of 272MWp the largest to be built to date, in Portugal.