Witznitz Solar farm takes title for largest solar plant in Europe

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A solar PV farm in Leipzig, Germany has taken the claim of the largest solar plant in Europe. The Witznitz Solar farm, a 605 MW project, has dethroned a Spanish solar plant for this position. The new solar park went online in the end of March. The first part of the project, however, came online in December last year.  It consists of ten sections and 1.1 million modules. What’s more, the plant was constructed on the former Witznitz 2 open pit coal mine. The plant spans over 500 hectares on the former mine and took up an additional 150 hectares of land nearby.

Who owns the Witznitz Solar Plant

The Witznitz solar farm was not state-subsidized. It is owned privately by HANSAINVEST Real Assets who arranged a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Shell Energy Europe last year in September. Additionally, HANSAINVEST also signed a PPA with Microsoft. The PPA agreements outline that Shell will receive 600 MW with Microsoft receiving 323 MW. HANSAINVEST also worked in the community to mitigate environmental and social impact from the project. They collaborated with Move On to construct roads with cycling and hiking paths totaling 13 kilometers. Additionally, they put up hedges along the fences on top of the forest areas planted on 13 hectares of land.

The Witznitz plant capacity

The PV plant will be able to produce enough clean electricity to power around 200,000 households. All this whilst avoiding around 250,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually. The solar farm’s developer is MoveOn Energy who have planned to install a further 45MW of solar power on its own behalf. They will connect the additional power generated to the grid by this summer.

The previous title holder for the largest solar farm in Europe was the 500 MW Núñez de Balboa project in the Extremadura region, Spain. It is now the second largest plant in Europe. It has 590 MW in peak capacity and a 553 MW network connection.

Nunez de Balboa Solar Project, Badajoz, Spain

The Fernando Pessoa system

However, the Witznitz solar plant is not expected to hold the title for much longer considering there is a 1.2 GW solar project currently underway in Portugal. The project is located in Setúbal district, specifically, Santiago do Cacém. It has been named The Fernando Pessoa system and will create 2,500 mostly local jobs. It is expected to come online next year. The solar plant will generate power equivalent to 370 million cubic meters of gas per year. This is enough to power 430,000 homes with clean and cheap energy per year.

Portugal is set to house Europe's biggest solar farm

The Fernando Pessoa System is owned by both Iberdrola and Prosolia Energy. Interestingly, the former company owns the Núñez de Balboa that was just dethroned as the largest solar park in Europe. Further, the solar park has an action plan that includes measures such as occupational skills training, fostering tourism and providing solar energy to nearby communities. Iberdrola also has a keen interest in environmental protection and biodiversity. They have noted that shepherds would graze sheep at the same location and that beehives would be introduced. It will help improve ecosystem stability and boost crop yields in the surrounding farmland.

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