Portugal:The world’s largest solar power plant was inaugurated on 28 March in Portugal. The 11-megawatt $78.5 mn (Rs353.25 crore) plant, a joint project of US energy companies GE Energy Financial Services, PowerLight Corporation and Portuguese renewable energy company Catavento, spreads across a 60-hectare (150-acre) hillside in Serpa, 200 kilometers (124 miles) southeast of Lisbon.
Southern Portugal, one of the sunniest places in Europe, has as much as 3,300 hours of sunlight a year. The new plant will produce enough power to supply 8,000 homes and will also prevent the emission of 30,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year when compared to fossil fuels.
Photovoltaic system employs silicon solar cell technology to convert sunlight directly into electricity and will produce 20 gigawatts power per hour in the initial phase.
Construction of the plant began in June 2006 and it started working partially in January 2007. The facility is owned by GE Energy Financial Services and will be operated and maintained by PowerLight, which has also been responsible for designing it. Management services will be undertaken by Catavento, which developed the project.
“This project is successful because Portugal’s sunshine is plentiful, the solar power technology is proven, government policies are supportive and we are investing,to help our customers meet their environmental challenges,” said Kevin Walsh, managing director and leader of renewable energy at GE Energy Financial Services.
“This is the most productive solar plant in the world and is expected to produce 40% more energy than the second largest one in Pocking, Germany,” said Howard Wenger principal of Powerlight.
Piero Dal Maso, co-CEO of Catavento, said the project “serves as a beacon to the world to show how to overcome challenges of scale and complexity.” Co-CEO Rui Pimenta said he hoped the government would clear remaining roadblocks “so solar power can truly radiate across Portugal.”
Portugal is almost entirely dependent on imported energy, but is developing large wave and solar power projects and building wind farms to supply 750,000 homes.
It is exploring new hydropower projects and plans to invest $10.8 bn (Rs48,600 crore) in renewable energy projects over the next five years. According to the plans that the government has, by the year 2010,45% of Portugal’s total power consumption will come from renewable sources.