Eighteen solar heat projects have profited from the national incentive scheme, Solcasa, in Spain since May 2010. The programme has been offering low-interest loans to Energy Service Companies (ESCOs), which install, operate and maintain solar thermal installations to sell their solar gains to customers, such as hotels or multi-family building owners. To date, the administrator of Solcasa, the Institute for Energy Diversification and Saving, IDAE, has granted loans of EUR 2.09 million to 18 projects totalling 2.32 MWth. The photo shows the roof installation owned and operated by Spanish company Sumersol at the nursing home in Villafranca de los Caballeros, a town in eastern Spain.
Solcasa is ongoing and there are still almost EUR 3 million available in funding low-interest loans. The scheme focuses exclusively on ESCOs, which will be able to install, operate, monitor and maintain systems for their clients. The benefit for the ESCO comes in the form of solar heat sales to end users. The scheme offers loans at Euribor +2.2 % interest rate over ten years, between EUR 20,000 and EUR 250,000. The loan requirement is a minimum reduction of 10 % of end-user energy bills (see further details in the database of incentive programmes).
Attractive to large fossil-fuel consumers like nursing homes or hotels
Until February 2015, 42 companies had been certified for the programme. One of them is Sumersol, a Spanish business founded in 2010 and specialised in ESCO projects for solar heat. According to Javier Ruiz-Seiquer, CEO of Sumersol, “thanks to the Solcasa programme, we have already been able to install eight flat plate collector systems with a total area of 750 m2 – six at retirement homes, one at a hotel and one at an industrial laundry.”
Map of the 18 approved projects within the Solcasa scheme
In the opinion of Ruiz-Seiquer, one of the great advantages of Solcasa is that the user does not have to deal with funding or maintaining the system. “We design, install and maintain the entire system thanks to the credit line. Then, we sell the energy to end users who will see their energy bill go down by at least 10 %,” the CEO explains. “With this energy sales model, we have a credit payback period of 8 to 10 years.” The scheme, however, does not appeal to all clients. “It mostly attracts large consumers of fossil energy, for example, nursing homes or hotels,” Ruiz-Seiquer clarifies.
Loan capped at EUR 1 million per ESCO
Jose Ignacio Ajona from the Spanish sales office of German collector manufacturer Wagner Solar has been another beneficiary of this loan scheme. Up to now, his company has installed four solar heat ESCO projects in hotels on the Canary Islands. “Although there is a bit of bureaucracy at the beginning, once you know how to apply for the credits, it works smoothly,” Ajona explains. “We intend to apply for more funds from Solcasa. In the end, heat supply services simplify things for clients, which is a definite plus.”
Sumersol’s CEO agrees: “We have already received some EUR 600,000 from this credit line. Over the coming months, we are going to apply for the remaining funds of up to EUR 1 million, which is the cap allowed per company.”
Alejandro Diego Rosell is a freelance journalist and consultant specialised in renewable energies and based in Madrid, Spain.