Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Greening Portugal

Greening Portugal:

Mega Solar Power Plant Begins to Operate

By Mario de Queiroz Inter Press Service News Agency
January 4, 2009


The most ambitious and innovative solar power project
in the world kicked off Monday in this white-walled
village in the southern Portuguese municipality of
Moura, one of the most impoverished areas in the
European Union.

The Acciona Energy S.A. company has put into service
the Amareleja photovoltaic power plant, located 150 km
south of Lisbon, which is capable of producing enough
energy to supply 30,000 households in the south-central
region of Alentejo.

Almost simultaneously, the mayor of Moura, Jose Maria
Prazeres Pos-de-Mina, was selected as one of the ten
finalists for the prestigious 2008 People of the Year
award granted by OneWorld, a non-governmental news
network that is one of the most highly-respected
international organisations devoted to raising
environmental awareness and promoting change.

The only requirement for nomination was that the
candidates embody the values of OneWorld, which include
human rights for all, fair distribution of the world's
natural and economic resources, simple and sustainable
ways of life, the right of every individual to inform
and be informed, participation and transparency in
decision-making, and social, cultural, and linguistic

Pos-de-Mina, who was born 50 years ago in Pias, another
village in the municipality of Moura, keeps a low
profile, but has nevertheless become famous throughout
Europe as "the mayor of the future" for his pioneering
work in renewable energy.

The grandson, son and nephew of prominent anti-fascist
activists who were persecuted and incarcerated by
Portugal's 1926-1974 dictatorship, Pos-de-Mina became
politically active at an early age when he joined the
Union of Communist Students, an organisation that
played a major role in the opposition to the
dictatorial regime.

But his militant background did not prevent Pos-de-Mina
from becoming a skilful businessman, and after earning
a BA in business administration he took on the
challenge of founding the Amper Solar power company,
planting the seed for what is now the world's largest
solar energy plant.

Located in the Baldio da Ferraria, a 250-hectare sun-
scorched plain, the plant was built at a cost of 410
million dollars in the sunniest area of Portugal, the
European country with the greatest number of sunlight
hours per year.

The reputation of this unassuming mayor of a small
municipality of Portugal has transcended national
borders, as he has come to be known as the architect of
the most ambitious renewable energy project in the
world. "It all happened without my even realising it,"
Pos-de-Mina confessed modestly when he learned that
OneWorld described him as "the mayor of the future."

The Amareleja Power Plant project involves photovoltaic
(PV) technology that uses semiconductors to convert the
sun's rays into electric power. Within a year, the
plant will have an installed capacity of 46 megawatts

It is expected to be operating at full capacity by the
year 2010, when it will produce 64 MW using 2,520 solar
trackers supporting 262 modules with 268,000 PV panels
producing 93 gigawatts/hour per year, generating
sufficient electricity to power 30,000 homes.

The plant's solar power production will contribute
enormously to helping Portugal meet its greenhouse gas
reduction commitments, drastically cutting carbon
dioxide (CO2) emissions by 152,000 tons a year.

"This project is important for Moura and for Alentejo,
but it is also important because of its contribution to
the development of Portugal and its significance in
Europe due to its size, as it will convert sunlight
into 64 million watts," making it 12 times bigger than
the largest solar power plant that exists today in the
EU, which is located in Germany and produces five
million watts, Pos-de-Mina told IPS in a recent

At the same time, the municipality of Moura launched
the Sunflower project, which involves a network of
eight municipalities from eight different countries in
Europe (Bulgaria, Britain, the Czech Republic, France,
Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain) that seek to
transform their towns into what the EU calls "Zero
Carbon Communities" under its Intelligent Energy -
Europe (IEE) programme for the promotion of alternative
energy sources.

Sunflower's goal is to "convert these EU communities
into environments free of CO2 emissions by turning them
into areas where only renewable energies are used,"
Pos-de-Mina added. The idea is to "conduct campaigns to
raise awareness on the use of renewable energies and
the benefits for the population," he said.

Pos-de-Mina's work in Amareleja and the Sunflower
project earned him the nomination for the OneWorld
award. Both efforts began as a way of finding solutions
to the area's growing economic problems, but eventually
turned into pioneer initiatives that serve as
encouraging examples for the entire world.

For this pragmatic communist mayor and businessman,
harnessing Alentejo's abundant sunlight seemed like
"the most obvious way" to develop alternative renewable
energy sources that would in turn create jobs in a
region where unemployment - at 15 percent - is twice
the national average.

In 2007, the municipality of Moura sold the 88 percent
stake it held in Amper Solar - owner of the plant
installation rights - to the Spanish company Acciona,
which has since become the sole shareholder in the
solar plant, after the minority shareholders decided to
follow the municipality's example.

Portugal's solar, wind, and wave energy projects have
received unconditional backing from the European
Commission, the executive body of the EU, which seeks
to speed up the continent's transition to a low-CO2

Until April 2004, Portugal's solar and wind power
generation was very low, in spite of the fact that the
country is extremely sunny and windy.

The wind energy generated in Portugal prior to 2007 was
in fact practically marginal. At present, this country
of 92,000 square kilometres and 10.6 million
inhabitants is one of the top wind power generators in
the EU.

From 2004 to 2006, several wind power parks were built
in Portugal, producing a total of 500 MW and putting
this country in third place in the EU, after Germany
(357,000 sq km and 82 million inhabitants), which
produces 1,808 MW, and Spain (504,000 sq km and 46
million inhabitants), with a production of 1,764 MW,
and ahead of Italy (301,000 sq km and 59 million
inhabitants), which has a total production of 452 MW.

The change has been so drastic that Portugal went from
being at the bottom of the EU's renewable energy
ranking to becoming one of the continent's leading

Copyright (c) 2009 IPS-Inter Press Service.


ACCIONA puts into service the world’s biggest photovoltaic power plant in Portugal, with an investment of 261 million euro

Date: 12/29/2008

The 46 MW plant, located in Amareleja (Moura, Portugal), is capable of producing 93 million KW/h per year.

The 250-hectare plant has 2,520 solar trackers supporting 262,080 photovoltaic modules.

ACCIONA Energy has put into service its photovoltaic (PV) power plant in Amareleja (Moura, Portugal). The Company has invested around 261 million euro (US$367 million) in the 46 MWp plant, the largest of its kind in the world. Amareleja is capable of producing 93 million KW/h a year―equivalent to the electrical consumption of over 30 thousand Portuguese households―and will avoid the 89,383 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year that would have otherwise been produced by the coal-fired power stations required to produce the same amount of power. The plant was constructed in the record time of just thirteen months.

ACCIONA is an international benchmark in renewable energies and this new project further strengthens the company’s position as a world leader in solar energy and enhances its outstanding track record in Spain, where ACCIONA already has an installed capacity of 68 MW of PV, with a further 100 MW of Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) currently under construction; and in the USA, where ACCIONA owns the largest CSP plant built in the world in the last seventeen years (64 MW).

A total area of 250 hectares

The Amareleja PV plant is 100 percent owned by ACCIONA. In January 2007, the company acquired the total capital of Amper Solar (the company that owned the rights of the installation) from the latter’s shareholders ―Moura Town Council (88%), Comoiprel (2%) and the firm of consultants Renatura Networks.Com (10%).

The plant covers a total area of 250 hectares, located in the parish of Amareleja in the municipality of Moura, in Portugal’s Alentejo region, not far from the border with Spain. It has 2,520 Buskil trackers (ACCIONA in-house technology), each with a surface of 142 m2, 13 meters long and 10.87 meters high. Each tracker has 104 polycrystalline silicon modules with a capacity of 170 and 180 Wp, and the trackers support a total 262,080 PV modules. The trackers follow the sun with an azimuthal rotation movement of 240 degrees, and a fixed inclination of 45 degrees.

The first 3 MW were installed at the end of 2007, and were connected provisionally in March 2008. This year has seen the installation of the remainder of the plant’s solar field and the construction of the evacuation line, and last week the plant was finally connected to the grid.

Built by ACCIONA Solar

The Amareleja power plant was built by ACCIONA Solar, a subsidiary of ACCIONA Energy. An average 150 workers worked on the plant’s construction, with a peak of almost 500 workers at certain moments.

ACCIONA Solar is a leading player in solar power installations and has installed 68 MWp in Spain, a substantial part of which are the so-called huertas solares (“solar gardens”), a concept created and patented by the company. Over 3,500 owners have so far invested a total 456 million euro in this kind of installation.

Helping to meet energy objectives

The Amareleja PV plant will help to achieve the objectives laid out in the Portuguese government’s E4 Energy Efficiency and Endogenous Energies policy and to meet Portugal’s greenhouse gases reduction commitments. In the case of PV power, the aim is to install 150 MWp, of which Amareleja will account for 30%.

The plant is expected to create wealth and employment in the region and is certain to become a reference for solar energy development.


People of 2008 Finalist: José María Prazeres Pós-de-Mina

November 28, 2008

Jeffrey Allen, OneWorld US

WASHINGTON, Nov 24 (OneWorld) - The mayor of one of Portugal's smallest and poorest municipalities has launched one of the largest green business initiatives in the world, and now he's spearheading an eight-country project to create communities run entirely on renewable energy.

José María Prazeres Pós-de-Mina (with mustache) escorts U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman on a tour of the Amareleja solar power plant in May. © Camara Municipal de MouraJosé María Prazeres Pós-de-Mina started with his own municipality of Moura, which is one of the sunnier spots in the sunniest country in Europe. Noting that his region has "sunshine to spare -- and even to sell," Pós-de-Mina built what was until earlier this year the world's largest solar electricity generating plant, which will produce enough energy to power 30,000 homes when it reaches full capacity in 2010. Moura is home to just 16,500 people.

Pós-de-Mina calls the solar plant "a very important project that will put Moura in a leading position at the global level in the renewable energy sector, which could attract other related investments.

"Besides the solar plant and what it means in terms of respect for the environment, the idea is to give shape to a much more vast initiative, with technological products and initiatives in the area of research. We will also build a neighborhood that will take into account worries about sustainability, introducing renewable energy in the buildings while paying attention to energy efficiency."

For his bold initiatives, Pós-de-Mina has been dubbed "the mayor of the future."

His latest project links eight municipalities in eight European countries in an effort to create "zero-carbon communities" run entirely on renewable energy. The "Sunflower Project" was launched in Moura in October, with mayors from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom beginning to set out their plans.

In a recent interview with Inter Press Service (IPS), Pós-de-Mina said the project is being implemented "in localities that are socially disadvantaged and impoverished, where local communities have limited access to information, and economic activity alone is insufficient to drive technological and scientific investment."

Helder Guía, the initiative's environmental engineer, told IPS that the Sunflower Project is intended to help spread eco-business ideas across Europe, "breeding new plants that will generate any form of renewable energy, either photovoltaic, wind, wave, or any other alternative power source that is locally feasible, depending on the location and the specific conditions."

"Power plant construction projects are also meant to serve as a springboard for sustainable development by creating employment, jobs that globalization cannot easily relocate to other regions, as they will be dependent on that specific location," Guía added.

Many ecologically and economically minded thinkers have suggested that the creation of "green jobs" can help reverse the financial malaise setting in across the planet.

Earlier this month, the Worldwatch Institute urged leaders of the world's 20 largest economies -- the so-called G-20 -- to launch a "Global Green Deal" that would focus on renewable energy, energy efficiency, "green" infrastructure, durable and recyclable materials, and a fairer distribution of wealth within and across borders.

Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute sees a new energy economy already emerging in the United States, and has encouraged federal government policies to construct a strong national electricity grid -- "the electrical equivalent of President Eisenhower's interstate highway system, in order to unleash the full potential of renewable energy wealth."

And renewable energy offers particular promise as a "leapfrog" technology for developing countries. Ten of the top 15 countries producing geothermal electricity -- by tapping into the energy produced far below the earth's surface -- are in the developing world, the Earth Policy Institute notes.

As for Pós-de-Mina, he was invited to speak about Europe's Sunflower Project this month in Brazil, at a Latin American conference on renewable energy.

The age of renewable energy seems to have arrived, thanks in no small part to the visionary leadership of Portugal's "mayor of the future."