Serpa, Portugal

The world's largest PV solar power plant


Serpa power plant is a solar energy plant that generates 21 gigawatt-hours of power per year. The electricity it generates it supplied to the national grid which is then used to supply power to 8,000 homes.

What is it?

The Serpa solar power plant is a joint project of GE Energy Financial Services, PowerLight Corporation, and the Portuguese renewable energy company Catavento. It is an 11-megawatt solar power plant, located on a 150-acre hillside area in Serpa, 124 miles southeast of Lisbon. It is made up of 52,000 photovoltaic modules, which track and follow the sun to generate current and produce electricity.

How does it work?

  • The Serpa Solar Power Plant was developed as a result of a new national government energy policy. The new policy entails a feed-in tariff for both ground-mounted and roof-mounted solar power systems, with a 15-year power purchase agreement. The Portuguese government has guaranteed a higher price (€ .31) than market price (€ .09) for each kilowatt-hour of solar energy produced for 15 years.
  • GE Energy Financial Services, a group of experts that invest in capital-intensive industries, has financed the project in a $75 million transaction.
  • PowerLight, a leading solar power system provider, designed and deployed the power plant and will operate and maintain it.
  • PowerLight installed their innovative PowerTracker® system which is the world's most widely used solar power system for large-scale power plants because of its efficiency and reliability.
  • The company’s patented technology tracks and follows the sun as it moves across the sky throughout the day. The panels rotate to the sun at 45-degree intervals. In the morning, the panels rotate east 45 degrees while in the afternoon they rotate west 45 degrees. This generates 18% more electricity than conventional fixed-mount solar panel systems.
  • The photovoltaic system employs silicon solar cell technology to convert sunlight directly into electricity.
  • Solar cells, built into arrays, generate direct current (DC), which is then converted into alternating current (AC) using inverters.
  • Serpa solar power plant generates 21 gigawatt hours of power per year.
  • This power is fed into the national grid and is enough power to supply 8,000 homes.
  • Catavento, a leading Portuguese renewable energy company, developed the project on a 150-acre hillside that will continue to remain productive farmland. Catavento will manage the plant day-to-day in coordination with PowerLight.
  • Portugal is considered one of the sunniest places in Europe and has well over 3,300 hours of sunlight a year.

Next steps

  • Portugal, almost entirely dependent on imported energy, is currently developing wave, solar and wind power projects to supply approximately 750,000 homes.
  • Portugal is also exploring new hydropower projects and plans to invest 8 billion euros ($10.8 billion) in renewable energy projects over the next five years.
  • Prime Minister Jose Socrates has stated that he would like 45 percent of Portugal's total power consumption to come from renewable energy sources by 2010.
  • PowerLight Systems announced on April 2, 2007 that it will build a similar solar power plant in Spain. It entered into an agreement with Agrupacion Solar Llerena-Badajoz 1, A.I.E. and Solarpack Corporacion Tecnologica, S.L. to design and build a solar power plant in Llerena, Spain. The plant is expected to generate approximately 4.8 megawatts of peak power.


  • Fairly complex financing requires such a project to have a financial partner. In this case, GE Energy Financial Services was able to act as the investor, providing the capital needed to set-up the solar power plant.
  • It is suggested to partner with a global technology company that has long term experience in the solar energy field and has the necessary technology and equipment. PowerLight Corporation provides this aspect to Catavento.
  • It is necessary to identify valuable land and lease the land for a long-term basis from farmers.