A Spanish renewable energy company was formally contracted on Wednesday to build Armenia’s first large solar power plant at an estimated cost of $50 million.
The 55-megawatt plant will be built in Mets Masrik, a village close to the eastern coast of Lake Sevan. The landmark project will be mostly financed from a World Bank grant allocated to the Armenian government in 2015.
An international tender for the project attracted bids from two dozen energy companies from around the world. A consortium of two Spanish companies, Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) and FSL Solar, was declared the winner of the government-administered tender in March.
The Armenian Energy Ministry said they promised the lowest cost of electricity to be generated at the facility. It will be cheaper than power supplied by scores of small hydroelectric plants scattered around the mountainous country, the ministry said.
An agreement on building and operating the Mets Masrik plant was signed in Yerevan by Energy Minister Artur Grigorian and Nicolas Fasquelle, FRV’s managing director for the Middle East and Africa. Grigorian’s press office said Fasquelle expressed confidence about successful implementation of the project.
“The plant will have an approximate area of 100 hectares – the size of 150 soccer fields combined,” FRV said in a July 2 statement. “It will generate enough energy to power around 21,400 households.”
The statement said that the plant called Masrik-1 is likely to be built by the end of 2020. FRV will hire 300 people for the plant’s construction, it added.
“Armenia’s growing drive to boost renewable energies constitutes a decisive factor when it comes to committing to the country, since it presents numerous opportunities to carry out clean energy projects,” Fasquelle was quoted as saying.
Armenia’s former government, brought down by mass protests in May, pledged to significantly increase the share of hydropower and other renewables in domestic electricity production. Speaking in January, then Energy Minister Ashot Manukian said the government objective is to ensure that renewable sources meet at least half of Armenia’s energy needs within the next few years. One of Manukian’s deputies, Hayk Harutiunian, said in early April that solar energy should account for at least 20 percent of Armenian electricity output by 2030.
It is not yet clear whether the new government stands by those ambitious targets. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian discussed the Mets Masrik and other renewable energy projects at a meeting with senior government officials held on Tuesday.
According to the National Statistical Service (NSS), hydroelectric plants accounted for about 30 percent of electricity generated in the country last year. By comparison, thermal power plants using natural gas had a 37 percent share in the total. Virtually all of the remaining 33.7 percent of energy was generated by the Metsamor nuclear power station.