Portugal: Stalled new PV fab gets off the ground

03. December 2012 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets | By:  Vladimir Pekic

Portugal’s RPP Solar, a Lisbon-based photovoltaic manufacturer, has begun advertising for employees for 460 jobs in its new solar panel plant, which is expected to open at a still unspecified date in Abrantes municipality in central Portugal.



The Portuguese flag.

While its gestation has been difficult, a long-awaited photovoltaic manufacturing facility appears to be getting off the ground in Portugal.

The announcement of vacancies in Abrantes comes four years after the sensational public presentation of RPP Solar’s ambitious plans to invest more than €1 billion in the construction of a number of photovoltaic manufacturing facilities that were supposed to generate around 2000 jobs in Portugal.

The project, which failed to materialize because of construction delays and financing difficulties, has since been scaled back substantially.

 The announcement that the project is going ahead has caused considerable buzz in the region’s press. The new RPP Solar ad for Abrantes jobs, which was published in Portugal’s weekly O Ribatejo from Santarém, was highlighted in the regional magazine’s front page headline and celebrated as "the best of news" in its editorial.



Four hundred of the advertised jobs at the Abrantes plant are assembly line positions, while 30 posts are for maintenance technicians, 18 for plant managers, 9 for academia/campus and 3 for economists/managers.



The job openings announcement comes barely four months after RPP Solar manager Alexandre Alves accused the government of "lack of action" and failing to provide support to his ambitious scheme, on August 7. He added that Portugal’s Global Trade & Investment Agency (AICEP) that was supposed to provide the financial aid was "a cabinet of cronies," according to Portugal’s public broadcaster RTP.



Alves’s strong words were issued in reaction to a government decision terminating all state involvement in RPP Solar’s project worth €1.052 billion that was supposed to create 1900 jobs. Decision nº 10510/2012 detailing the reasons for pulling the plug on government involvement in the project was published in the state gazette Diário da República on August 6 by Portugal’s ministries of foreign economic affairs and economy.



The Portuguese government granted financial incentives under the terms of the Innovation Incentives System to RPP Solar for its project to install and equip three industrial plants to produce photovoltaic panels, thermal panels and solar-grade silicon and a research and development center in Abrantes, based on an investment contract signed with AICEP on June 15, 2010.



"It has been verified, however, that RPP Solar, has until now failed to respect its obligation to execute the investment project in accordance with the terms and deadlines that were stipulated and does not demonstrate the required financing conditions to implement the same," explained the ministries in their decision.



RPP Solar was supposed to receive €67 million to help equip the new solar equipment plants and a further €70 million in the form of fiscal incentives applicable on future profits, said Alves.


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