The world’s largest solar photovoltaic farm, generating electricity straight from sunlight, is being constructed near Moura Portugal, a small town in a thinly populated and impoverished region which boasts the most sunshine per square metre a year in Europe. The massive 2500 giant solar panels tilt at the sun at a fixed 45 degree angle as they rotate to face the sun every day tracking 240 degrees.
When fully commissioned later this year, the $375 million farm set on abandoned state-owned land will be twice the size of any other similar project in the world, covering an area nearly twice the size of London’s Hyde park. It is expected to supply 45MW of electricity each year, enough to power 30,000 homes.
Portugal, without its own oil, coal or gas and with no expertise in nuclear power, is pitching to lead Europe’s clean-tech revolution with some of the most ambitious targets and timetables for renewables. Its intention, the economics minister, Manuel Pinho, said, is to wean itself off oil and within a decade set up a low carbon economy in response to high oil prices and climate change.
“We have to reduce our dependence on oil and gas,” said Pinho. “What seemed extravagant in 2004 when we decided to go for renewables now seems to have been a very good decision.”
He expects Portugal to generate 31% of all its energy from clean sources by 2020. This means lifting its renewable electricity share from 20% in 2005 to 60% in 2020, compared with Britain’s target of 15% of all energy by 2020. Having passed its target for 2010 it could soon top the EU renewables league.
It is the start of a potentially giant global industry with Portuguese firm Enersis planning to invest more than $1.5 bn in a series of farms that together would power 450,000 homes.