Barely more than a month has passed since Ignacio Sánchez Galán, chairman of Iberdrola, was photographed hand in hand with Portuguese President Antonio Costa under the promise to invest 3,000 million to support the energy transition and the Spanish company already has in its hands the environmental permit to build what will be the largest photovoltaic project in Europe and the fifth in the world.
This has been communicated this Tuesday by the company in a note in which it describes the details of the project. The plant will bear the name of the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, located in the municipality of Santiago de Cacém, near Sines, a logistics hub in southern Europe, and will develop 1,200 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity, with the Valencian company Prosolia Energy as a partner.
In operation in 2025
It is scheduled to come on line in 2025 and will then be capable of supplying clean, cheap, locally generated energy sufficient to cover the annual needs of some 430,000 households, a population equivalent to almost twice the size of the city of Porto.
The facility, whose grid connection has already been contracted with the Portuguese operator REN, will avoid the annual consumption of 370 million cubic meters of gas, which would have been needed to produce the same amount of energy in a combined cycle.
Ignacio Sánchez Galán
Highlights the collaboration of the public authorities
The land that will house the project has already been secured, and the construction will generate up to 2,500 jobs, most of which will be filled by local workers. Thus, the project contemplates a Socioeconomic Actions Program that includes measures such as professional training in the field of energy or support for the tourism sector, in addition to providing solar energy to nearby communities.
"The Fernando Pessoa solar facility marks a new milestone in Europe by combining clean energy ambitions with the generation of positive and tangible environmental and social impacts. We need to reduce our exposure to fossil fuels. We are proud to remain committed to building new clean energy infrastructure in Portugal, as we have already done with the Tâmega gigabattery. The collaboration of the Portuguese authorities has also been essential to bring this project to this stage in record time," said Ignacio Galán, Chairman of Iberdrola.
Stable regulatory framework
In his aforementioned public meeting with the President of Portugal, Ignacio Sánchez Galán praised the impact on the sector of the Portuguese government's decision to launch a new regulatory program accompanied by a modernization of the administrations to promote and streamline the deployment of clean energy.
"Offering a stable and predictable regulatory framework that would attract investment," he assured in contrast to what in his opinion happens in Spain where on numerous occasions he has criticized the "legal insecurity" that dominates the country.
Other photovoltaic projects
In addition to the one announced on Tuesday, Iberdrola completed the construction of the Alcochete solar complex (46 MW), in the district of Setúbal (Lisbon region), a district in which the company has also completed two other photovoltaic installations: Conde (13.5 MW) and Algeruz II (27 MW). In early 2023, construction will begin on the 37 MW Montechoro I and II projects in Paderne (Albufeira) and the 64 MW Carregado project in Alenquer (Lisbon), while the Estoi solar plant (83 MW) in the Algarve, which also includes battery storage, will come on line in 2024.
All the plants belong to the auctions that Portugal held in 2019 and 2020, in which Iberdrola was awarded a total of eight PV projects - 270 MW being the highest winning bidder by number of lots in the 2019 auction.
Last year, the energy company also inaugurated in Alto Tâmega, in northern Portugal, the largest pumped hydroelectric storage project in the country and one of the largest energy storage facilities in Europe. With an investment of 1.5 billion, it has three dams and three power plants (Gouvães, Daivões and Alto Tâmega) and a combined capacity of 1,158 MW. The group plans to build a wind farm linked to this facility, which will turn the complex into a hybrid generation plant, which, with its 400 MW of installed capacity, will be one of the largest wind power projects in Portugal.
Iberdrola already operates 92 MW of wind power in the country, distributed in three wind farms: Catefica, in the municipality of Torres Vedras, with 18 MW; Alto do Monção, in Mortágua and Tondela, with 32 MW; and Serra do Alvão, in Ribeira de Pena, with 42 MW. Together, these plants produce 200 GWh per year, equivalent to the electricity used by 35,000 households.