In Serpa, Portugal, 52,000 photovoltaic modules are generating enough electricity for 8,000 homes. The new 11-megawatt solar plant, owned by GE, PowerLight Corp. and Catavento SA, was dedicated on March 28.
Serpa, located 124 miles southeast of Lisbon in Portugal's Alentejo agricultural region, is one of Europe's sunniest areas. "This project is successful because Portugal's sunshine is plentiful, the solar power technology is proven, government policies are supportive, and we are investing and delivering under GE's ecomagination initiative to help our customers meet their environmental challenges," said Kevin Walsh, managing director and leader of renewable energy at GE Energy Financial Services.
GE Energy Financial Services financed and purchased the project in an approximately $75 million transaction last year. PowerLight, a solar power system provider, designed, deployed, operates and maintains the plant. The plant uses PowerLight's PowerTracker system that follows the sun's daily path across the sky to generate more electricity than conventional fixed-mounted systems. Catavento, a Portuguese renewable energy company, developed and manages the project, which began feeding Portugal's electricity grid in late January.
The facility consists of a ground-mounted photovoltaic system that uses silicon solar cell technology to convert sunlight directly into energy. The Serpa solar power plant incorporates photovoltaic modules from SunPower, Sanyo, Sharp and Suntech.
Portugal relies heavily on imported fossil fuels, and its carbon dioxide emissions have increased 34% since 1990, among the fastest rates in the world. To address this, the country is providing incentives for installing renewable energy. The Serpa project relies on a preferential tariff mandated by the Portuguese government. Solar power enjoys widespread support in Portugal, with the backing of 77% of the population, according to a European Commission study published in January.