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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 June 2006, 14:27 GMT 15:27 UK
Portugal starts huge solar plant
The plant in Portugal will be similar to an existing one in Bavaria, Germany.

Construction work has begun in southern Portugal on what is set to be the world's largest solar power station.

The 58m euro (40m) plant near Serpa, 200km (125 miles) south of Lisbon, will produce enough electricity for 8,000 homes when it starts next January.

The 11-megawatt solar power plant, to be made up of 52,000 photovoltaic modules, will cover a 60-hectare (150-acre) southern-facing hillside.

Portugal plans other solar plants to counter a rise in carbon emissions.

The project in the sunny Alentejo region has been developed by Portuguese renewable energy company Catavento, in conjunction with solar polar provider Powerlight and funded by General Electric Energy Financial Services.

The panels will be raised around two metres off the grass which, Catavento's Piero Dal Maso says, the sheep will take care of.

"The Serpa solar power project, along with other renewable energy initiatives, helps lay the foundation for Portugal's energy future," he said.

"The project takes maximum advantage of the excellent environmental conditions in Portugal for solar power."

Renewable future

He told the BBC World Today programme that they were expecting a good yield.

"It should provide energy enough for 8,000 homes. It will save 30,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions."

Portugal's total CO2 emissions for 2005 was 36,413,004 tonnes, according to the European Commission.

Mr Dal Maso says he believes the future will need a mix of renewable energies - wind, solar, water and wave energies to help provide coverage.

"It is a drop, but we think in Portugal that it will make sense to use renewables to get away from oil issues and the dependency on energy from outside which we have in Portugal."

The plant will use PowerLight's PowerTracker technology which follows the sun as it moves across the sky throughout the day. The firm say this generates more electricity than conventional fixed-mount systems.

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