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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 March 2007, 23:58 GMT 00:58 UK
Portugal opens major solar plant
The solar energy plant at Serpa, Portugal
The solar power plant is in one of Europe's sunniest areas
Portugal has inaugurated what it says is the world's most powerful solar power plant.

The array of electricity-generating solar panels covers about 60 hectares (150 acres) in one of Europe's sunniest areas in southern Portugal.

Officials say the plant should produce enough energy to supply 8,000 homes.

The plant is part of Portugal's efforts to cut its reliance on imported fuel and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that add to global warming.

The plant is also meant to bring development and jobs to the Alentejo region 200km (125 miles) southeast of Lisbon, a poor area traditionally dominated by cork and olive production.

Renewable energy drive

The 11-megawatt plant has 52,000 photovoltaic modules, which will produce 20 gigawatt hours of power each year.

Burning fossil fuels to generate the same amount of energy would result in 30,000 tons of greenhouse gases being emitted over the course of a year.

"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.

The facility was designed by PowerLight which will also operates and maintains it.

Portugal is developing wind, solar and wave power projects as part of a plan to invest $10bn (5bn) in renewable energy over the next five years.

Prime Minister Jose Socrates has said he wants 45% of Portugal's power consumption to come from renewable energy by 2010.



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