Portugal completes 219 MW unsubsidized PV project


Construction of a 219 MW PV project in Vaquieros, Portugal, has been completed, with the project expected to begin delivering energy to the regional grid before the end of this month.

Referred to as the Solara4 project during its development and construction, the power plant was renamed the Riccardo Totta Photovoltaic Plant at an inauguration ceremony held last week, attended by stakeholders from across the project, as well as Portuguese minister of environment and climate action João Pedro Matos Fernandes, Secretary of State for Energy João Galamba and local Mayor Paulo Paulino. The plant takes its name from an Italian engineer and father of Maurizio Totta, the project’s landowner.

At 219 MW, Riccardo Totta PV plant is the largest solar power plant in Portugal, and among the largest unsubsidized projects built so far in Europe. Developers WElink and China Triumph International Engineering Co. Ltd. (CTIEC) have signed a long-term PPA with Spanish company Audax for energy produced at the site. Paulino also noted that the project is the largest investment ever made in the municipality of Alcoutim, and WElink stated that it came in under budget, costing €170 million against a scheduled investment of €200 million.

Chinese manufacturer Jetion supplied the PV modules for the project, and China National Building Materials acted as engineering, procurement, and construction contractor. Originally expected to be completed in September 2019, the project was hit with multiple delays including a Covid-19 outbreak among construction workers at the site. WElink and CTIEC have previously collaborated on several projects in Spain and Portugal, including on the 46 MW Ourika Project completed in 2018, which Paz reports is performing beyond expectations.

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Portugal is hoping that the completion of the Riccardo Totta project will help it to weather the increasing energy prices many in Europe are bracing for as we head into winter. “We are deeply concerned with the increase in the price of gas, a fuel that continues to be a significant source of energy production in Portugal and which contributes to setting the price of electricity,” said Matos-Fernandes. “However, we know very well how to stave off high prices: by supporting projects like this one”

The project created as many as 500 local jobs during its construction, and will continue to employ 15-20 during its operational phase. The developer also spoke of plans to integrate energy storage at the site later on, potentially reducing the cost of energy even further. “Our goal is to continue to develop its potential by implementing storage systems that will be crucial to revolutionising the country’s energy landscape, namely in terms of optimising the cost of energy”, said Hugo Paz, project director for the Iberian Peninsula at WElink.

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