The 11-megawatt plant should be fully operational by January 2007, producing enough electricity to power 8,000 homes. The plant’s 52,000 photovoltaic panels will cover an area of 60 hectares on a southern-facing hillside in Serpa, situated in Portugal’s sunny Alentejo region.

The hillside will continue to be used as productive farmland, as the plant’s solar panels are raised 2 metres off the ground.

The US$75m project is financed by General Electric, and designed by solar power specialists PowerLight, who will also be running the plant. Portuguese renewables company Catavento will provide management services, GE said.

At a ceremony marking the start of construction work on Tuesday Mario Armero, president of GE Portugal and GE Spain, said: “This project is a wonderful example of collaboration among a financial institution, manufacturer and project developer for a high-tech facility that will benefit the Portuguese people, economy and environment,”

“For GE, it’s a major step in our growth in renewable energy and our ecomagination initiative to help overcome environmental challenges.”

“The Serpa solar power plant is a clear example of GE’s commitment to cleaner, reliable renewable energy. PowerLight is pleased to be partnering with GE Energy Financial Services to achieve this solar industry milestone.” PowerLight CEO Tom Dinwoodie said.

Co-CEO of Catavento Piero Dal Maso said: “The Serpa solar power project, along with other renewable energy initiatives, helps lay the foundation for Portugal’s energy future.

“The project takes maximum advantage of the excellent environmental conditions in Portugal for solar power.”

Goska Romanowicz

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