“I have complete confidence in PV as a source of energy”

Alberto Medrano  has been working in the PV industry since 1987. In 1993, he founded the company albasolar, a wholesaler for solar energy systems in Madrid. In 2000, the electrical engineer sold his company to conergy from Germany. Albasolar became conergy Spain. when the Hamburg-based company ran into financial problems, Medrano once again founded a company in 2008 that he named albasolar and that again operates as a wholesale outlet. in 2011, it had sixteen employees. It now only has four. Medrano speaks about the future in an interview with S&we.

S&WE: Mr Medrano, in 2012, Spain completely froze funding for renewable energy with a moratorium. Have you ever considered throwing in the towel?

Alberto Medrano: Giving up never crossed my mind. I have complete confi dence in PV as a source of energy. When I was young, my fi rst job was in this industry, and I have no doubt that I will retire in it. But in addition to this feeling in my heart, my head also tells me that photovoltaics is the energy source that makes the most sense in a country with as much solar radiation as Spain. I believed this in the 1980s, and I do so even more today, now that PV has exceeded grid parity.

S&WE: What is your political opinion on Spain’s discontinuation of solar subsidisation?

Medrano: Spain spends € 50 billion annually on energy imports. This is equivalent to the revenue generated by the tourism sector, the main engine of our economy. It is totally anachronistic that Spain installed just 50 MW of PV capacity in 2015.

S&WE: How did you survive the situation economically?

Medrano: We reduced the size of our workforce by 80 % to just four people. We also invested a lot of private money in the company to cover the losses between 2012 and 2014 when the market slumped dramatically.

S&WE: In which segments is PV commercially viable in the current economic environment in Spain?

Medrano: We have two markets. The fi rst one is the off ­grid market, which has remained more or less stable over the years because Spain is a large country with many buildings that are located far from the power grid. The second is selfconsumption, despite all of the incidents and the obstacles that the government puts in our way again and again. In addition to single­family homes, we implement small systems on factory rooftops for industrial self­consumption.

S&WE: So there is a market that survives without subsidies?

Medrano: There have been neither grants nor subsidies in Spain since 2012. This means that everything we sell has to be economically viable for our customers. There is no better proof of the competitiveness of a PV project than the private money that is in it.

S&WE: Which sectors do your clients come from?

Medrano: Albasolar has around 400 customers, and all of them are installers from Spain and Portugal. Our sales volume has decreased with the decline of the market, but we have a stable number of customers compared to the time before the beginning of the crisis. We take that as a declaration of loyalty and as a sign that we are doing things right.

S&WE: What future opportunities do you see for PV in Spain?

Medrano: I am very confi dent. It is a mature and viable technology in a country with high levels of solar radiation. Combining these ingredients will certainly result in a good mixture. The only ingredient that currently makes the mixture bitter and needs to be changed is the Minister of Energy himself, who is a personal enemy of solar energy.

S&WE: And what are the prospects for Albasolar?

Medrano: Our prospects are closely connected to Spain. Commercial PV got started in Spain in the 1980s, and between that time and the year 2012, Spain was always among the top countries. Our goal is to return to that. Currently, PV accounts for three percent of electricity production in Spain. It would be easy to achieve between twenty and thirty percent.

The interview was conducted by Oliver Ristau.