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09/15/2011 11:36 AM     print story email story  

Greece Looks to Solar to Help Dismal Economy News

Greece has devised a plan to become Europe's solar energy powerhouse while helping the country's dismal economy.

"Project Helios" would increase the country's installed solar capacity  to 2.2 gigawatts (GW) by 2020 and 10 GW by 2050.

Greece has lagged on solar development - it only has a measly 200 megawatts (MW) installed - but is looking to attract EUR 20 billion in solar investment in the years ahead.  

The Project would cut the red tape that interferes with renewable energy development - it would make it easier for foreign investors to lease land, and remove administrative hurdles.  

The debt-plagued country, which is in the middle of its worst recession in decades, hopes its unmatched solar resources can help it get out of trouble.

There's no doubt that Greece has the solar resource necessary. Energy Minister George Papaconstantinou says with 300 days of sunshine a year, Greece averages 50% more solar radiation than Germany - the established leader in photovoltaics. 

In time, Greece hopes to export some of its solar electricity to cloudier neighbors to the north, including Germany, which has been in talks with the Greek government. 

The Energy Ministry says transmission infrastructure is already capable of sending 2.5 GW of solar power from Greece to central Europe.

EU countries would benefit from importing solar energy from Greece because it would help them meet their clean energy targets, as well as helping Germany fill in the gap created by its decision to drop nuclear.

Greece currently gets about 8% of its energy from renewables, mostly wind. PPC, the state-controlled utility, is one of Europe's biggest polluters, reports Reuters, and uses less than 1% renewables. 

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