Photovoltaics investment hoped to give sector a major push in Greece

Despite boasting one of the highest numbers of sunny days a year in Europe, Greece’s photovoltaic (PV) systems market, for the production of power from the sun, is still at an embryonic stage. There are about 40 importers of such systems but applications and installed capacity are particularly limited, mainly the result of the lack of economic incentives. A new investment now being implemented at the Stavrohori industrial park in Kilkis, in northern Greece, is projected as a major step forward for the industry. The Thessaloniki-based construction company Themeliodomi and US-based Energy Photovoltaics Inc (EPV), with respective shares of 80 and 20 percent, are setting up Heliodomi, a company which will manufacture, distribute and install photovoltaic thin-membrane photovoltaic elements and BIPVs (building integrated photovoltaics). Heliodomi plans to produce photovoltaic elements from amorphous silica (a-Si) totaling a capacity of 5 megawatts a year and BIPVs of 1.25MW a year. The 1.25-hectare plant is also designed for an additional production capacity of 5MW of elements made of CIGS (copper indium gallium diselenide) – the next generation of PV systems, when the technology now being developed by EPV reaches maturity for commercial applications. The plant is expected to be launched early next year with 115 employees and is projected to employ 140 by the end of 2004. The investment has been budgeted at 19 million euros, of which 5.9 million will be a subsidy approved under the investment incentives law. A further 3 million euros have been budgeted for a 400kW capacity PV power-producing facility on the roof of the plant, approved for a 50 percent European Union subsidy. Half of the Kilkis plant’s production will be distributed on the US market, 20 percent through EPV and 30 percent through also US-based TerraSolar. Speaking to Kathimerini, Heliodomi’s Managing Director Dimitris Papacostas expressed confidence that photovoltaics will record explosive growth in the Greek market in the next two to three years, largely as a result of two important measures planned by the Development Ministry. The first is the extension in early 2004 of the 40-50 percent subsidy for the installation of PV systems from commercial and industrial concerns to households, and the second, according to the stated intention of the ministry, the possibility of a subsidy for the power produced. Themeliodomi has a number of property developments, most prominently the Allatini estate in Thessaloniki, which are planned to make use of the new technology and are viewed as a critical move to stimulate further interest. The company will construct the first, 160kW capacity power facility, using a-Si elements, on the building that houses the headquarters of Athens 2004, the Olympic Games’ organizers, projected for completion in the first half of next year. According to Papacostas, construction was delayed by about six months, when in September 2002 the purchase of the land plot was stalled due to ETBA bank’s impending merger with Piraeus Bank. Procedures for installing PV systems are complex and time-consuming, with higher costs and significant delays in implementing investment plans. At least six months are needed to obtain a production license, six to eight months for the installation license and about eight to 12 months for the subsidy’s approval. Also, installations with a capacity above 20kW require a license for production, installation and operation, which are, in turn, required for the application for subsidy. «Speeding up and simplifying the procedures for licensing and subsidization, and raising the capacity ceiling required for licensing are two important factors for the future of the photovoltaics industry in Greece,» says Papacostas.

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