Sunday, April 30, 2006

A shining example

Good news from the world of solar photovoltaics. General Electric is to invest $75 million in what will be the world's biggest solar energy plant in Portugal. There will be 52,000 solar panels with a capacity of 11 megawatts, to be based on a farm in Serpa. A company called Powerlight will install the panels, . This company already runs significant installations in Bavaria and the Vegas area. It has been made possible by legislation forcing utilities to pay 31 euros cents a kilowatt hour for solar energy. The Portuguese government is seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and its reliance on fossil fuels.


At 3:54 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting the different approaches that can be taken when building large renewable energy projects. This huge scheme in Portugal is on a single site, so is conceptually no different from a conventional power station. A week earlier a scheme with a total installed capacity of "between 18 and 25 megawatts" was announced in Spain.

This scheme takes a distributed approach, with up to 278 individual installations, each producing 90-100 kilowatts. Each site will be financed by individual groups of investor/shareholders, and output will be sold on to local utility companies.

So which approach is better, centralised or decentralised? Is it 'horses for courses' ? Or are the Spanish one step ahead in getting away from the conventional view that power must be generated by large, centrally-managed sites? And have the Portugese fallen into a trap of their own making by concentrating their efforts on one big facility rather than several hundred smaller ones?

At 4:12 pm, Blogger Matt Burge said...

I think it is great to see the investment either way. Of course both are helped on by subsidy or, put another way, forcing utiities to support investment in alternative energy production. The Spanish proposition sounds complex. I hope it succeeds.

At 4:57 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It all depends what flavour you like your investment. The GE mega-project is entirely financed and owned by GE Energy Financial Services, and all profits go back to them. Ownership of, and profit from, the Portugese setup is intended to be distributed among local stakeholders. Banco Santander get their profit from lending to those stakeholders to finance the investment.
Option 2 sounds pretty damn healthy to me. I also have a gut feeling that it will prove to be much more flexible and scalable than GE's effort.

At 7:54 pm, Blogger Matt Burge said...

Guess I'm arguing for the bottom line, which for me is 'all aboard' for renewables. On the finer economic points I'd agree with you though.

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