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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

World’s Largest Solar Farm Operational Later This Year

High on the Alantejo Plain, near the small town of Mouro in Eastern Portugal, the world’s biggest solar photovoltaic farm is nearing completion. When the £250 million ($500 million) farm is fully operational later this year, it will be twice as large as any project of its kind in the world. It is expected to supply 45MW of electricity every year, enough to power 30,000 homes.

The farm, located in an area with the highest annual sunshine per square meter in Europe, is made up of 2520 giant solar panels, positioned at a 45 degrees angle, to track the sun through 240 degrees every day.Portugal, with no oil, coal or gas reserves and no expertise in nuclear power, has some of the most ambitious targets for renewables in Europe, and aims to become a leader in the European clean-tech revolution. According to economics minister Manuel Pinho, “We have to reduce our dependence on oil and gas. What seemed extravagant in 2004 when we decided to go for renewables now seems to have been a very good decision.” By 2020, he expects Portugal to generate 31% of its energy from renewables.

The rate of progress is certainly impressive. In less than three years the country has trebled hydropower capacity, quadrupled wind power and invested in flagship solar projects like the one at Mouro. Crucially, this progress has been achieved on the back of a favorable economic and political climate. The government has guaranteed price-levels for the long-term and projects are not delayed by state indecision or hold-ups in the planning system. By 2012, companies are expected to invest £10 billion ($20 billion) in renewables, rising to up to £100 billion ($200 billion) by 2020.

While this project is to be of record-holding size, it will be overshadowed eventually by a plant here in the US currently in the planning stage, which is expected to produce 500MW - far more than this plant. The current largest solar farm in the US is well below Portugal's upcoming farm, sitting at 14MW. Of course, it seems as if lots of "world's largest" solar farms are in the works, so it's nice to see at least this one will be a reality.

Via The Guardian; photo credit Teri Pengilley

Original here

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