Portugal to be Site for World’s Largest Photovoltaic Installation

April 30, 2006 by Jeff Shepard

GE Energy Financial Services, PowerLight Corp. and Catavento Lda announced today that they will build the world's largest solar photovoltaic power project. The 11-megawatt solar power plant, comprising 52,000 photovoltaic modules, will be built at a single site in Serpa, Portugal, 200 kilometers (124 miles) southeast of Lisbon in one of Europe's sunniest areas.

GE Energy Financial Services will finance and own the facility in a $75 million transaction. PowerLight will operate and maintain this solar power plant employing the company's PowerTracker® system. Catavento, a leading Portuguese renewable energy company, developed the project and will provide management services. Material deliveries have begun, and construction will commence in May. The project, on a 60-hectare (150-acre) southern-facing hillside that will remain productive farmland, is scheduled for full power operation by January 2007.

"This investment is a major step for GE Energy Financial Services not only because this is the world's largest solar photovoltaic plant but also because it's our first solar power project in Europe and puts us close to the $1 billion mark in our global renewable energy portfolio," said Alex Urquhart, President and CEO of GE Energy Financial Services. "In addition, the plant will benefit from the use of PowerLight's innovative solar tracking technology which will enhance the plant's energy yield. We look forward to working with PowerLight on other clean energy projects throughout the world as we carry out GE's ecomagination initiative to help customers meet their environmental challenges."

Andrew Marsden, Managing Director of GE Energy Financial Services' European Operations, added: "This landmark solar project will make a material contribution to Portugal's solar power generation target which forms part of its strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For us, this investment underscores our strategy to invest in high-quality renewable energy projects in Europe in supportive regulatory regimes such as Portugal's. The Serpa project will take our European renewable energy portfolio to a total of 177 megawatts."

"The Serpa solar power plant is a clear example of GE's commitment to clean, reliable renewable energy," noted PowerLight CEO Tom Dinwoodie. "PowerLight is pleased to be partnering with GE Energy Financial Services to achieve this solar industry milestone."

With no fuel cost or emissions, the Serpa solar installation will produce electricity sufficient to power 8,000 homes and save more than 30,000 tons a year in greenhouse gas emissions compared with equivalent fossil fuel generation.

The project is expected to be Portugal's first large photovoltaic installation to go online.

"This landmark project culminates years of administrative and regulatory efforts in our strategy to implement a large solar project in Portugal," said Piero Dal Maso, co-CEO of Catavento. Co-CEO Sergio Costa added: "We hope this project clearly demonstrates that solar energy is a promising alternative power source that should be freed from roadblocks."