Catching Some Rays: World's Largest Solar Power Plant Opens in Portugal

In March 2007, Portugal opened what is being considered the world’s largest-producing solar power plant.

Taking almost a year to construct, the 11-megawatt, $78.5 million plant covers 150 acres of the Serpa hillside. Officials estimate the plant has enough generating power to produce energy for 8,000 homes. The plant has 52,000 photovoltaic modules, and it will produce 20 gigawatt-hours per year—40 percent more energy than the world’s second-largest solar power plant. The designers from PowerLight, the company that also will operate the facility, say this solar plant will keep 30,000 tons of greenhouse gases from escaping into the environment from the burning of fossil fuels each year.

Adding to the size of the plant, this area of Portugal generally receives 3,300 hours of sunlight per year, which makes it a prime location for the world’s most productive solar plant. “This project is successful because Portugal’s sunshine is plentiful, the solar power technology is proven [and] government policies are supportive,” said Kevin Walsh of Renewable Energy GE, which built the project.

Portugal is almost entirely dependent on imported energy, but it is developing large hydroelectric and solar plants as well. The country plans to invest $10.8 billion in renewable energy over the next five years.

Portions of the plant have been operating since January, but it wasn’t until March that the plant went into full effect.         EC


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