France's Voltalia wins Albanian solar park contract

TIRANA, May 27 (Reuters) - French renewables company Voltalia SA has won a tender to build a 140 megawatt (MW) photovoltaic park in Albania after offering to sell half its energy to Albania for less than half the initial asking price.

Voltalia, which was the only one of five final bidders to meet the technical criteria for the project in the Karavasta area, will give Albania a hefty discount for the first 15 years of its 30-year contract after the country had said it would not buy energy for more than 55 euros per megawatt hour (MWh).

“It is 24.89 euros per MWh,” the head of the bids evaluation commission, Enea Karakaci, said to applause after announcing the result of the tender on Wednesday.

The tender was launched in January and delayed twice by the coronavirus outbreak and ensuing ban on travel. However, 15 bidders took a tour of the site on March 2 and had 200 questions answered, Karakaci said, before an online tender on May 8.

Energy minister Belinda Balluku said the 100 million euro ($110 million) investment in Karavasta, which receives an average of 2,700 hours of sunshine a year, would build the biggest solar energy park in the Balkans.

Voltalia will sell half its energy to Albania at 24.89 euros per MWh for the first 15 years of the contract and the rest on the open market.

Albania opened the tender as part of its energy diversification to reduce reliance on hydropower. ($1 = 0.9093 euros) (Reporting by Benet Koleka Editing by David Goodman)