Greece gives solar power its day in the Sun

Go ahead for world s largest solar power station a striking success for Greenpeace campaign

The solar power industry today received a big boost, when the Greek government agreed preliminary funding for a solar power station fifteen times bigger than any currently in operation.

To be built on the island of Crete by US firm Enron Solar, the 50MW solar photovoltaic (PV) power station is to be constructed in stages and completed in 2003. The Greek energy ministry, Vasso Papandreou, today agreed official funding for the first 5MW tranche of the power station. The Greek government is to provide 55% of the capital costs.

The power station is small in conventional electricity generating terms, but marks a breakthrough for PV technology. Its projected installed cost of US$2.40 (Ecu2.10) for 50MW is more than four times cheaper than the world average for grid-connected PV. Its capacity is equal to half the total PV capacity installed worldwide in 1996.

The Greek government's decision is a major success for the environmental group, Greenpeace, which is running a worldwide campaign in favour of solar power, and has lobbied strenuously for the Crete power station. "The solar age is no longer a future dream but a reality today," said Greenpeace chief Thilo Bode following the government's announcement. "This smashes conventional assumptions on solar power in terms of scale and costs."

Greenpeace launched its campaign in October 1995, largely in an attempt to halt construction of a new oil-fired power station by the Greek state utility, the Public Power Corporation (PPC). The PPC has shown little interest in renewable energy, and opposed the solar power station plan. Greenpeace, in turn, has proposed a "fossil-free Crete" plan.

Follow Up:
Greek energy ministry, tel: +30 1 748 2770; Greenpeace International , tel: +31 20 523 6200. References: "Plugging into the Sun: Kickstarting the Solar Age in Crete" - Greenpeace report on the Crete solar power station project, available at: http://www.greenpeace.org/~comms/97/climate/reports/plug01.html.

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