Portuguese government approves project of building solar power plant

The Economy and Innovation Ministry said Wednesday it approved a project to install solar panels over 114 hectares (280 acres) in southeastern Portugal, one of Europe's sunniest spots. The power plant, costing Ђ250 million (US$302 million), is to have a capacity of 62 megawatts when it comes on line in 2007. The electricity it generates is to be fed into the national grid.

The project was developed by Amper Central Solar, a company 90-percent owned by the town council of Moura, where the plant is to be built. The region is one of Europe's poorest.

BP Solar is to provide the panels and also will set up a nearby solar panel factory employing 115 people. The factory is expected to achieve an annual turnover of Ђ63 million (US$76 million), the AP reports.

The government is encouraging the development of renewable energy sources to reduce the nation's dependence on imported oil.

Portugal has no oil, natural gas or coal. It imports about 86 percent of its energy, according to government figures, and high oil prices are hindering efforts to revive the stagnant economy. A.M.

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