Europe’s biggest solar farm to open in Santiago do Cacém

  • Lusa
  • 31 January 2023

The solar photovoltaic park, from Iberdrola and Prosolia Energy, will supply "clean, cheap and locally produced energy sufficient to meet the annual needs of around 430,000 homes.

Iberdrola and Prosolia Energy have obtained an environmental license to build, the largest photovoltaic project in Europe in São Domingos near Santiago do Cacém with 1,200 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity, it announced on Tuesday.

In a statement, Spanish company Iberdrola announced that the environmental license, issued by the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA),  means it can build what is considered “the biggest photovoltaic project in Europe and the fifth largest in the world”.

The company said it estimated that the future infrastructure, which will have an installed capacity of 1,200 MW, will start operating in 2025 and that construction would create up to 2,500 jobs, “mostly for local workers”.

The solar photovoltaic park, named Fernando Pessoa, will supply “clean, cheap and locally produced energy sufficient to meet the annual needs of around 430,000 homes, a population equivalent to almost twice the city of Porto,” it said.

According to Iberdrola, the “installation, whose connection to the grid has been contracted with Portuguese operator REN, will avoid the consumption of 370 million cubic metres of gas per year, the volume required to produce the same amount of energy in a combined cycle.

“With regard to the protection of biodiversity, the land will be able to be used by local shepherds as pasture for sheep farming and beehives will be introduced, which will help to improve the stability of ecosystems and increase crop yields in the surrounding agricultural land,” the companies added.

In this context, “plantations will be made in the area around the infrastructure to replace eucalyptus with native trees”.

The project includes a Socio-Economic Actions Programme, which includes measures such as professional training in the area of energy or support for the tourism sector, in addition to the supply of solar energy to nearby communities, it added.

“The Fernando Pessoa solar installation constitutes a new milestone in Europe by combining clean energy ambitions with the generation of positive and tangible environmental and social impacts,” Iberdrola’s chairman, Ignacio Galán, said in the statement.

Considering it is important to “reduce exposure to fossil fuels” and “focus on building new clean energy infrastructures in Portugal”, he highlighted the “collaboration of the Portuguese authorities” so that “this project reaches this stage in record time”.

The initial project of Prosolia Energy involved a billion euros of investment and generated popular protest, in April 2021.

The initiative was not favourably received by APA and was reformulated, going through the public consultation process again at the end of that year.

The project included the installation of over 2.2 million double-faced solar modules in an area of 1,262 hectares.

The reformulated project now provides for the installation of just under 2 million photovoltaic solar panels, distributed across four sub-parks, in an area of almost 1,245 hectares, according to the document consulted by Portuguese news agency Lusa, at the time of the public consultation.

In the statement issued today, Iberdrola alluded to the conclusion, at the end of 2022 of several solar parks and said it plans to invest a further €3 billion in wind and solar energy in Portugal over the next few years.

This ‘package’ included the construction of the Montechoro I and II projects, of 37 MW, in Paderne (Albufeira), and the Carregado project, of 64 MW, in Alenquer (Lisbon), at the beginning of this year, while the Estoi solar plant (83 MW), in the Algarve, which also includes battery storage, will become operational in 2024.