Agence France-Presse
December 11, 2005


By Daniel Silva

Lisbon, Portugal -- Portugal is turning to wind, wave and solar power
to reduce its huge dependence on oil imports and meet its
international commitments to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The world's first commercial wave power plant is set to begin
operating off Portugal's northern coast in 2006 while work on the
world's biggest solar power station will begin in the sunny south of
the country next year.

But the bulk of the 2.5 billion euros (2.9 billion dollars) in private
and public funds that the government of Prime Minister Jose Socrates
set aside in July to develop renewable energy will go towards wind
energy development.

The goal is to increase the share of electricity produced from
renewable energy sources in Portugal to 39 percent, as required by the
UN Kyoto Protocol, from the roughly 30 percent expected this year.

The wave power plant will be set up by a Portuguese consortium in the
Atlantic about five kilometres (three miles) from the town of Povoa de
Varzim and it will generate 2.25 megawatts of power from 2006 --
enough to supply 1,500 homes.

The project will use three wave power generators supplied by Scottish
firm Ocean Power Delivery for eight million euros (9.4 million US

The generators look like giant floating sausages and they rock with
waves, pumping water to hydraulic motors that drive generators to
produce electricity.

If the initial phase is successful, the consortium, led by renewable
energy group Enersis, said it will order 30 more Pelamis P-750
generators by the end of 2006.

The government wants waves to provide 50 megawatts of power by 2010
but experts believe the country has the potential to produce far more
wave energy because it has deep waters just off its shores that
generate strong swells.

"Portugal is in a privileged place when it comes to wave energy," the
head of the Portuguese Renewable Energy Association (APREN), Antonio
Sa da Costa, told AFP.

Wave power could supply Portugal, a nation of 10.5 million, with 20
percent of its annual electricity needs, according to a study by the
Wave Energy Centre, a non-profit group dedicated to the promotion of
the energy source.

Meanwhile in October the government granted an operating licence for a
solar energy power station to be set up in the thinly-populated
Alentejo, a southern province of rolling hills that is one of Europe's
sunniest regions.

"This is an innovative project," Economy Minister Manuel Pinho said at
the time.

The 250 million euro project will have 350,000 solar panels spread
over 114 hectares (280 acres) near the town of Moura and will produce
62 megawatts, or enough power for 21,000 homes.

The world's biggest existing solar power plant in Germany only
produces a sixth of this power, according to Amper, the firm building
the Moura plant.

While the government wants solar power to generate 150 megawatts of
power by 2010, up from just 2.3 today, it is aiming for a nearly four-
fold increase in wind power capacity to 3,750 megawatts during the
same time.

To achieve this, Lisbon in September launched an international tender
for three large wind parks -- one for 1,000 megawatts of capacity, one
for 500 megawatts and a third for 200 megawatts to be shared between
small producers.

Portugal is among the nations in Europe where wind energy is going to
expand the most over the coming years, according to the Brussels-based
European Wind Energy Association.

Green groups welcome the development of renewable energy sources but
experts caution they have drawbacks which could slow their

Unlike hydro power, Portugal's main renewable energy source, power
produced from wind, waves and the sun cannot be easily stored, Sa da
Costa said.

Alternative sources of energy also suffer from difficulties in
connecting to the main electricity grid and lengthy licencing times,
he added.

It can take up to three years for a wind farm to get final approval,
according to APREN, which wants the detailed environmental assessments
required of developers to be streamlined.

"The best places to set up a wind farm are often in mountainous
regions with lots of wind which are also the most difficult regions to
get licensing," Sa da Costa said.

Despite the drawbacks, both EDP-Energias de Portugal, the nation's
main electricity provider, and Galp Energia, its main oil and natural
gas company, have shown interest in the wind farm licences.

Last year oil made up 58 percent of Portugal's primary energy
consumption, making it one of the most dependent nations on fossil
fuels in the 25-member European Union, economy minister figures show.

Copyright Agence France-Presse