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A Guide To Installing Solar Panels In Spain Expat Tips

With over 300 days of glorious sunshine each year, Spain is the obvious choice for those looking to install solar panels in their homes.

Furthermore, with energy bills constantly on the rise, there is an added incentive for homeowners to seek out the most cost-effective sources of electricity.

If you are considering installing solar panels in Spain, you will need to do your research, learn about the pros and cons and then decide whether harnessing solar energy is the right choice for you.

In this article, you will find out everything you need to know about installing solar panels in Spain including:-

  • What solar panels are and how they work
  • How much solar panels in Spain cost to install
  • Whether you need planning permission to install solar panels
  • How quickly you will get your initial investment back
  • How much electricity they generate
  • How much money you can save
  • The benefits of using solar panels
  • If there are any taxes on solar panel usage
  • And lots more..

Let’s take a look!

How do solar panels work?

Solar panels work by absorbing the sunlight via their photovoltaic cells. This then generates direct current (DC) which in turn is converted into alternating current (AC) using inverter technology.

The AC power is then distributed to the home via an electrical panel.

Why use solar panels?

Solar panels generate renewable energy which means they are not only perfect for saving money on your energy bills, they are also a green form of energy meaning you are doing your little bit to help the planet.

In recent years, the cost to install solar panels has dropped considerably making them accessible to more people.

Villa with solar panels

In fact, in 2021, the solar capacity for private properties in Spain increased by 102%. With the recent rise in energy costs, this trend is only set to continue.

Once fitted, the initial outlay for purchasing and installing the solar panels can be recouped on the savings you will be making each year.

What are the different types of solar panel installations?

There are two types of solar panel installations.

On-grid solar panels mean that the unit is connected to your utility company's power grid. This means that any excess energy which is created can be sold back to the grid reducing your costs considerably.

On-grid systems are generally more popular as you have the backup of the local power network in the event that your system underperforms or breaks down.

An On-grid connected solar panel system will prioritise solar energy over grid energy while it is active. However, if your utility company has a power outage, you will lose all power.

Off-grid systems are not connected to the utility company's energy network and will use an additional battery or storage device for any excess energy. This energy can then be used at night or when there is little to no sunlight.

However, the initial cost will be higher due to the cost of the backup storage device.

Why is Spain the ideal country in which to install solar panels?

Even during the winter months, Spain still enjoys a considerable amount of sunshine. Even when there is cloud and rain, this rarely lasts for long, meaning that installing solar panels in Spain is the ideal choice for those looking to save money and play their part in protecting the planet.

Early in the decade, there were over 8 billion euros in subsidies that were made available to encourage investment in renewable energies. However, these subsidies were short-lived and were phased out by 2012.

In 2012 there was a 7% tax added to both conventional and renewable electricity sales in Spain with subsidies and other incentives becoming a thing of the past.

Is there a tax on solar panels in Spain?

In October 2015, Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party (Partido Popular) introduced a ‘sun tax’ which aimed to tax self-consumption of energy which included anyone who installed solar panels.

Anyone who did not pay the tax was subsequently fined. This was obviously condemned by most Spaniards making the green energy solution a lot less attractive to most households.

Fortunately, the country saw sense and in 2019, the sun tax was abolished and replaced by a new decree which would regulate the self-consumption of electricity with a simplified mechanism for compensation of self-produced and unconsumed energy.

At the time, Energy and Environment Minister Teresa Ribera said, “This country is finally freeing itself from the great absurdity, scorned by most international observers, that is the ‘sun tax’,” she told a news conference.

A key figure showing Spain’s delay in this area is that a country so rich in sunlight has only 1,000 installations of this kind compared with more than one million in Germany,” she added.

What are the benefits of installing solar panels?

There are numerous benefits to replacing your existing source of energy with solar panels. This includes:-

  • Lower your energy costs and avoid rising prices
  • Backup supply to mitigate downtime experienced with grid power outages
  • Avoid electric metre tripping, which is a common occurrence in Spain
  • Reduce your personal reliance on fossil fuels
  • Reduce your carbon footprint
  • Obtain certain tax benefits

How much will it cost to install solar panels in my Spanish property?

This will of course depend on the amount of energy your household needs and whether you go for the on or off-grid option.

After researching the off-grid offers from companies in Spain, we found that at the lower end of the scale contracting around 4KW of energy, you would be looking at around 5,000 Euros. This kind of system would be suitable for a small home with between two and three bedrooms.

A larger 7.5KW system with battery storage could cost around 7,500 Euros including VAT, which would be suitable for medium-sized properties with three or more bedrooms.

A 10KW system which would be suitable for larger homes would cost upwards of 10,000 Euros inclusive of VAT. These would typically include larger storage batteries of around 900AH.

On-grid systems are generally a little cheaper and will range from between 4,000 Euros for a 2.5KW system to 6,500 Euros for a 5KW system.

How many solar panels will I need for my property?

Depending on the size of your home and the energy you require, you will need anything between 2 and 20 solar panels.

Image Credit: Endesa

With the average Spanish household using around 5,300 kWh per year, this would require between 7 to 9 solar panels.

You will also need adequate roof space to install the panels.

How long do they last and what kind of maintenance do they need?

Solar panels have a long life span and should provide you with green energy for around 25 years or more.

Fortunately, most solar panels require very little maintenance in order to operate and continue to provide you with your electricity needs.

If panels are tilted, any rain will run over them, keeping them free of debris. It should also clean off any dirt or other mess such as bird droppings which may be obstructing the sunlight.

Of course, living in Spain can often mean long periods without much rain. This may mean you have to clean them a little more often.

In some countries, snow can be an issue, however, this isn’t generally an issue here in Spain. Solar panels are very durable and can withstand extreme weather including snow, rain, hail and high temperatures.

Cleaning solar panels

If you notice that the amount of energy your panels are generating is on the low side, it may be a good idea to give them a quick check to make sure they are clean enough.

It is recommended that you should give them a clean between two and four times each year. Running a hose over them or using a leaf blower should be sufficient to keep them running efficiently.

How much money can I save on my electricity by installing solar panels?

This is a key question given the current rocketing price of energy.

There are many factors which will determine how much money you save including your usage, the amount of sunlight you get, your tariff and the installation costs.

However, according to Ernesto Macías, general director of Solarwatt Spain, a family living in a 120 sqm property with four members with their own independent solar panel installation, facing south could produce on average around 5,843-kilowatt hours per year. This would save them 1,684 euros per year or 8,420 euros over five years.

This would also be enough to cover the initial cost of the solar panel installation.

How long before I get back the cost to install them?

Most households can expect the amortisation period to be between five and 10 years depending on sunlight obtained, initial cost and the Kwh tariff of the installation.

Are there any grants or subsidies?

On June 29, 2021, Spain’s Council of Ministers approved Royal Decree 477/2021 which allows direct grants to autonomous regions, to incentivise the installation of self-consumption and storage units, for both businesses and individuals.

The decree was further updated in May 2022 (Royal Decree 377/2022) incorporating six different incentive programs for residential and business sectors.

Note that the programs are currently set to end in December 2023.

The amount of each grant will vary according to the region you are in and the solar panel equipment you wish to install.

Further info can be found at the link below.

https://www.idae.es/ayudas-y-financiacion/para-energias-renovables-en-autoconsumo-almacenamiento-y-termicas-sector

Do you need planning permission to install solar panels in Spain?

Rules on the installation of solar panels will vary across the autonomous regions, however, most regions no longer require you to get planning permission.

The Balearic Islands were the first region to simplify the process, updating their urban planning law in January 2018 to reflect this. This was subsequently followed by a number of other communities including Madrid in October 2021.

Autonomous communities where planning permission is no longer required are Andalucía, Aragón, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Catalonia, Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura, Galicia, Madrid, Navarre and the Valencian Community.

There may be certain cases in which you may need to apply for permission, such as if your property is on an urbanisation. In such cases, you may need to get permission from the community of owners.

If you are in any doubt, you should check with your local town hall.