SERPA, Portugal, Mar 28, 2007 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Spread across a hillside pasture amid olive trees, 52,000 shimmering photovoltaic modules in one of the world's largest solar power plants have begun generating enough electricity for 8,000 homes, GE, PowerLight Corp. and Catavento SA announced today.
After eight months of construction and testing, GE Energy Financial Services, a unit of General Electric (NYSE: GE), PowerLight, a subsidiary of SunPower Corporation (NASDAQ: SPWR) and Catavento dedicated the 11-megawatt Serpa solar power plant today, on schedule. The facility -- a model of clean power generation integrated with agriculture -- is in one of Europe's sunniest areas, in Portugal's Alentejo agricultural region in the town of Serpa, 200 kilometers (124 miles) southeast of Lisbon.
GE Energy Financial Services financed and purchased the project in an approximately US $75 million transaction last year. PowerLight, a leading global solar power system provider, designed, deployed, operates and maintains the plant. The plant uses PowerLight's innovative PowerTracker(R) system that follows the sun's daily path across the sky to generate more electricity than conventional fixed-mounted systems. Catavento, a leading Portuguese renewable energy company, developed and manages the project, which began feeding Portugal's electricity grid in late January.
Kevin Walsh, Managing Director and leader of renewable energy at GE Energy Financial Services, said today at a dedication ceremony in Serpa: "This project is successful because Portugal's sunshine is plentiful, the solar power technology is proven, government policies are supportive, and we are investing and delivering under GE's ecomagination initiative to help our customers meet their environmental challenges." Added Andrew Marsden, Managing Director of GE Energy Financial Services' European Operations: "The Serpa project is a springboard for other solar power investments we're pursuing in Europe through project acquisitions, project finance, development capital and access to solar modules through GE Energy."
PowerLight CEO Tom Dinwoodie noted: "The Serpa solar power plant speaks to the green power initiatives now setting Europe on a course toward ambitious emissions reductions goals. By assembling a first-class team of companies in the solar arena, we've achieved a remarkable renewable energy milestone."
Generating electricity from the sun with no fuel costs or emissions, the Serpa plant is on a 60-hectare (150-acre) hillside, equivalent to the area of more than 80 football fields. The project supports a European Union initiative by saving more than 30,000 tons a year in greenhouse gas emissions compared to equivalent fossil fuel generation. The EU this month agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 percent by 2020, from 1990 levels.
Portugal relies heavily on imported fossil fuels, and its carbon dioxide emissions have increased 34 percent since 1990, among the fastest rates in the world. To address this, the country is implementing some of the world's most advanced incentives for installing renewable energy. The Serpa project relies on a preferential tariff mandated by the Portuguese government. Solar power enjoys widespread support in Portugal, with the backing of 77 percent of the population, according to a European Commission study published in January.
At today's ceremony, a 3.7 million euro (US $4.8 million) contract was signed for a grant to the project under the Portuguese government's Economic Modernization Program.
Piero Dal Maso, co-CEO of Catavento, said the project "serves as a beacon to the world to show how to overcome challenges of scale and complexity." Added co-CEO Rui Pimenta: "We hope the government will clear remaining roadblocks so solar power can truly radiate across Portugal."
Construction of the Serpa project began in June 2006 and was completed as planned in January 2007. The facility consists of a ground-mounted photovoltaic system that uses silicon solar cell technology to convert sunlight directly into energy. The Serpa solar power plant incorporates photovoltaic modules from SunPower, Sanyo, Sharp and Suntech.
About GE Energy Financial Services
GE Energy Financial Services' 300 experts invest globally with a long-term view, backed by the best of GE's technical know-how and financial strength, across the capital spectrum and the energy and water industries, to help their customers and GE grow. With US $13 billion in assets, GE Energy Financial Services, based in Stamford, Connecticut, invests more than US $5 billion annually in two of the world's most capital-intensive industries, energy and water. In renewable energy, GE Energy Financial Services is growing its portfolio of more than US $1.75 billion in assets in wind, solar, biomass, hydro and geothermal power. More information: www.geenergyfinancialservices.com.
GE (NYSE: GE) is Imagination at Work -- a diversified technology, media and financial services company focused on solving some of the world's toughest problems. With products and services ranging from aircraft engines, power generation, water processing and security technology to medical imaging, business and consumer financing, media content and advanced materials, GE serves customers in more than 100 countries and employs more than 300,000 people worldwide. For more information, visit the company's Web site at www.ge.com.
PowerLight is a leading global provider of large-scale solar power systems, delivering over a decade of experience and financial value to commercial, utility, public sector and residential customers worldwide. PowerLight designs, deploys and operates the largest solar power systems in the world through market-leading innovation and exceptional customer service. For more information, please visit www.powerlight.com. PowerLight is a subsidiary of SunPower Corp.
Catavento, Producao de Energia Eolica SA. is one of the few private and independent Portuguese renewable energy companies. Its skilled and experienced team covers all aspects of renewable energy development - from site selection to licensing, financing, construction, operation and maintenance. Since 2001, Catavento has developed 110 MW in Portugal and 225 MW in Brazil. It owns and operates 23 MW of wind energy through partnerships and in 2007 will build an additional 28 MW of wind projects. Catavento aims to become an Independent Power Producer exclusively of renewable energy and is expanding in other EU countries. For more information, please visit www.catavento.pt
Editors: TV News B-roll of the Serpa project is available at http://www.geenergyfinancialservices.com/SerpaSolarPlant/. Caption for accompanying still photo: This aerial photograph shows 52,000 photovoltaic modules in one of the world's largest solar power plants, which has begun generating enough electricity for 8,000 homes, GE, PowerLight Corp. and Catavento SA announced.
SOURCE: GE Energy Financial Services
PowerLight Corp., Berkeley, CA, USA Susan DeVico, +1 510-339-1527 Mobile: +1 415-235-8758 firstname.lastname@example.org Or Catavento, Lisbon, Portugal Piero Dal Maso, +351 21 421 2345 email@example.com Or GE Stamford, CT, USA Ken Koprowski, +1 203-961-5743 Or GE Brussels, Belgium Elma Peters, 32-2-235-6980
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