|GE Invests, Delivers One of World's Largest Solar Power Plants|
April 12, 2007
Spread across a hillside pasture amid olive trees, 52,000 shimmering
photovoltaic modules in one of the world's largest solar power plants have begun
generating enough electricity for 8,000 homes, GE, PowerLight Corp. and
Catavento SA announced today.
After eight months of construction and testing, GE Energy Financial Services, a
unit of General Electric, PowerLight, a subsidiary of SunPower Corporation and
Catavento dedicated the 11-megawatt Serpa solar power plant today, on schedule.
The facility -- a model of clean power generation integrated with agriculture --
is in one of Europe's sunniest areas, in Portugal's Alentejo agricultural region
in the town of Serpa, 200 kilometers (124 miles) southeast of Lisbon.
GE Energy Financial Services financed and purchased the project in an
approximately US $75 million transaction last year. PowerLight, a leading global
solar power system provider, designed, deployed, operates and maintains the
plant. The plant uses PowerLight's innovative PowerTracker(R) system that
follows the sun's daily path across the sky to generate more electricity than
conventional fixed-mounted systems. Catavento, a leading Portuguese renewable
energy company, developed and manages the project, which began feeding
Portugal's electricity grid in late January.
Kevin Walsh, Managing Director and leader of renewable energy at GE Energy
Financial Services, said today at a dedication ceremony in Serpa: "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." Added Andrew Marsden, Managing Director of GE
Energy Financial Services' European Operations: "The Serpa project is a
springboard for other solar power investments we're pursuing in Europe through
project acquisitions, project finance, development capital and access to solar
modules through GE Energy."
PowerLight CEO Tom Dinwoodie noted: "The Serpa solar power plant speaks to the
green power initiatives now setting Europe on a course toward ambitious
emissions reductions goals. By assembling a first-class team of companies in the
solar arena, we've achieved a remarkable renewable energy milestone."
Generating electricity from the sun with no fuel costs or emissions, the Serpa
plant is on a 60-hectare (150-acre) hillside, equivalent to the area of more
than 80 football fields. The project supports a European Union initiative by
saving more than 30,000 tons a year in greenhouse gas emissions compared to
equivalent fossil fuel generation. The EU this month agreed to cut greenhouse
gas emissions by at least 20 percent by 2020, from 1990 levels.
Portugal relies heavily on imported fossil fuels, and its carbon dioxide
emissions have increased 34 percent since 1990, among the fastest rates in the
world. To address this, the country is implementing some of the world's most
advanced 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 percent of the
population, according to a European Commission study published in January.
At today's ceremony, a 3.7 million euro (US $4.8 million) contract was signed
for a grant to the project under the Portuguese government's Economic
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." Added co-CEO
Rui Pimenta: "We hope the government will clear remaining roadblocks so solar
power can truly radiate across Portugal."
Construction of the Serpa project began in June 2006 and was completed as
planned in January 2007. 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 - SunPower Corporation.