AN INVESTMENT IN THE FUTURE: ATHOS SOLAR COMPLETES FIRST GREEN-FIELD PHOTOVOLTAIC PLANTS IN IRAN
Athos Solar GmbH, based in Heidelberg, Germany, recently became the first investor to install and launch two high-performance green-field photovoltaic plants in Iran. The two systems, located in the province of Hamadan near Tehran, have a surface area of ten hectares each, making them the first of their scale in Iran. Further, their combined peak output of 14 Megawatts (MWp) marks a major milestone in the establishment and expansion of renewable energies in Iran. Athos Solar completely financed the investment of ca. 20 million Euros with equity. In early February, the two systems officially commenced operations, with both German Ambassador Michael Klor-Berchtold and Iranian Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian attending the ceremony.
Athos Solar only needed nine months after first contact with the Iranian developer to complete both green-field plants – despite the considerable logistical challenges the project entailed: the majority of the components, including ca. 40,000 photovoltaic modules from Canadian Solar had to be imported into Iran. “Construction of large-scale solar-energy plants in Iran only became possible since the spring of 2016, when the sanctions were lifted, meaning our systems are the first of their kind,” explains Christian Linder, CEO of Athos Solar. “The joint endeavour was initiated by two business partners from Iran and England, who also developed the rights to the project and sold them to the newly founded joint holding. We realised the project together with our trusted partners from Germany, and contracted Iranian providers for both preparatory landscaping work and subsequent electrical work.” The interactions with the Iranian authorities, who were extremely cooperative, proceeded smoothly. “You can sense a great deal of openness and enthusiasm for this type of energy production,” says Linder, adding, “Our solar-energy plants are also an investment in Iran’s future power supply. Renewable energy will assume an increasingly important role, and Iran is no exception.”
Completely equity financed projects
As an investor, Athos Solar completely financed the roughly 20 million Euros needed to construct the two photovoltaic systems using own equity. As Linder relates, “At the moment, that’s the only way to complete projects in Iran like this one. Bank financing simply isn’t an option; even simple transactions are a day-to-day challenge. In this regard, our advantage is that we have sufficient equity to cover the initial outlay ourselves, which allows us to implement such massive projects, even on a tight schedule.”
At the same time, the two systems represent Athos Solar’s first projects in the Middle East. The experts from Heidelberg profited from their extensive experience in constructing high-performance plants because the guidelines and standards used – like the environmental certification – match those in Europe. As Linder puts it, “Though the project meant entering a new geographic region, it wasn’t uncharted territory in terms of the basic conditions.” Given the positive experience with the two new plants in Hamadan, further projects are planned in Iran and other countries in the region, provided the political situation remains stable.