Thursday 19 October 2017

Dublin energy company to build €230m solar farm in Portugal

Construction on the solar plant is set to start this month on an 800-hectare plot, about half of which will be covered with solar panels. Photo: Stock Image
Construction on the solar plant is set to start this month on an 800-hectare plot, about half of which will be covered with solar panels. Photo: Stock Image

John Reynolds

Dublin-headquartered modular home builder and solar energy developer WElink Group is to develop a €230m, 220MW solar farm in Portugal.

The project, located at Vaqueiros in the Algarve, will generate enough electricity to power about 200,000 homes, reduce CO2 emissions by 218,000 tonnes, and will be the largest privately-funded solar project in the country, the company said.

WElink's founders are Dubliners Barry O'Neill, a former executive with Irish-headquartered distributor DCC, and engineer Breandan MacAmhlaoibh. In January they announced a €2.9bn joint venture in Britain to build over 25,000 modular green homes and five new factories and an R&D centre there. The move is in partnership with China National Buildings Material, its Chinese state-owned partner, which has €80bn of net assets, and Your Housing Group, a British provider of social, affordable and retirement housing.

Construction on the solar plant is set to start this month on an 800-hectare plot, about half of which will be covered with solar panels. Equivalent to the area of about 520 football pitches, it will be one of the 20 largest solar plants in the world.

Some 200 workers will be employed to build it, with a further 400 involved at peak times. Once operational by the middle of next year, 30 people will be employed in its operations and maintenance.

"This development in Portugal will be one of the world's largest green energy power plants. WElink has a history of delivering solar farms throughout the world and this development is our most significant to date," said Barry O'Neill. "Solar generation is an advanced technology by renewables standards and is playing a significant part in helping Europe meet its climate change obligations."

Portugal's economy minister, Manuel Caldeira Cabral, said: "Consumers have in the past paid higher prices for renewable energy. We do not want to stop its progress, but fortunately the technology has evolved in a way that solar energy can now be competitive, paying the investment with unsubsidised tariffs.

"This is the biggest investment that this company, which already has solar plants in various parts of the world, is doing, and is the first of a series of investments that this company wants to carry out here."

Portugal has emerged as a leader in renewable energy, which powered 57pc of its electricity use last year. WElink is expected to announce a further €1bn of solar plant developments in the coming months in the UK, Spain, the US, Latin America and South East Asia. It is funded by a combination of €300m that it raised for its investments, plus other project finance to cover capital costs of projects. Its investors are a mix of family offices, small funds and private investors here, in Britain and the US.

Sunday Indo Business

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