Chinese-irish consortium ploughs €200 million into solar energy plant in Algarve (but environmentalists not delighted)

Considering the pressure by environmental groups for Portugal’s government to resist ‘dirty energy plans’, it may come as a surprise to hear that a €200 million solar project launched yesterday in the Algarve has not received resounding applause from all quarters.

But the truth is that Algarve eco-group Almargem is not in the least bit impressed.

It claims that the massive photovoltaic plant is too big and essentially unsightly.

In a communiqué sent to the media yesterday, the association explained: “In a territory like the Algarve, it is preferable to opt for smaller solar plants on abandoned agricultural land, or on land without conservation value, close to areas of consumption where all parties can reap benefits and negative impacts could be considerably more reduced”.

As it is, the huge ‘central’ outside the remote village of Vaqueiros is bang in the middle of a 4 km section of popular hiking route Via Algarviana, and “will certainly provoke reduced interest on the part of potential walkers uninterested in having to cross an industrial installation of this dimension”.

Almargem fears “grave repercussions” on the immediate local economy and communities affected (Vaqueiros and nearby Furnizinhas), stressing that the plant may not even have the requisite licences.

But none of this was alluded to during the inauguration on Wednesday when economy minister Manuel Caldeira Cabral welcome the “largest investment” that the consortium led by China Triumph International Engineering (CTIEC) and WE Link renewable energy has made “throughout the world”.

The ‘solar central’ is also unique in that it is the “first in a series of investments” that CTIEC means to realise in Portugal, said the company’s boss Peng Shou.

Work on the site will begin in April, writes Público, and extend for a period of two years.

The plant will occupy an area of around 80 hectares “inserted on a property of around 130 hectares”.

Alcoutim’s mayor Osvaldo Gonçalves appears unconcerned by the unsightliness factor of acres of solar panels, telling reporters that the park will create 60 jobs which “are very welcome in a borough that lives with the problem of desertification through lack of job opportunities”.

For now, further details of CTIEC’s plans for Portugal are being kept under wraps.

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