Municipality of Aljustrel

Portugal’s first ‘renewable energy community’ in agriculture starts in Aljustrel

Pilot project being established in Roxo irrigation area

A pilot project to establish Portugal’s first Renewable Energy Community in agriculture is being developed in the Roxo irrigation area, in the municipality of Aljustrel (Beja district), the idea being to cut farms’ electricity costs.

The project is being led by the Association of Beneficiaries of Roxo (ABR), based in Aljustrel, which runs the irrigation area, and the National Federation of Irrigators of Portugal (Fenareg). 

ABR president António Parreira, told Lusa the aim is to mitigate energy costs which have skyrocketed for irrigation this year.

What used to cost €60 is now costing producers €500. Access to water, in other words, is costing more than eight times what it cost a year ago.

“Not only have energy prices soared, but we run the risk of energy shortages,” he added.

With that in mind, the pilot project – spanning over 8,500 hectares in the municipalities of Aljustrel and Ferreira do Alentejo as well as Santiago do Cacém (Setúbal district) –  involves “extending” the photovoltaic plant ABR installed in 2018, to pump water from the Roxo dam.

“At the moment, what we have are tracker panels, whose number we are going to increase,” explained Parreira. “And we are going to install fixed panels and also panels on the main conductor channel … which will be innovative.”

The project also provides for “the construction of a mini hydroelectric plant for the water at the exit of the dam”.

The cost of expanding the photovoltaic power plant should total €300,000 with the expansion expected to be completed “within a year”.

Construction of the mini hydroelectric power plant is estimated at “around two million euros” and, when the completed project ” is ready, tenders will be launched.

According to Parreira, these two investments will allow the association to produce energy “during the day” (with the photovoltaic plant) and “during the night” (with the mini-hydro plant).

“We will be completely self-sufficient in terms of energy, that is, we will supply water and energy,” he said.

The project has the added value that in periods when excess energy is produced – particularly in the spring and summer – this can be sold to “other users” and not injected “into the grid at a ridiculous price,” he added.

“We already have an agreement with a company and the council could be another partner. In other words, we are going to sell energy at prices that, for us, will be advantageous – as they will be higher than what we receive for delivering it to the grid – while the other partners will pay a lower price than those charged by normal suppliers.”