Portugal reduces environmental assessment for solar projects of up to 100 hectares

Environmental assessment for green hydrogen projects will also be waived. Image: Iberdrola.

In a push to accelerate the growth of renewables in Portugal, the government has introduced a package that will reduce environmental assessments for solar projects.

Solar projects that require an area less than or equal to 100 hectares for the installation of panels and inverters will no longer be required to have a compulsory environmental assessment.

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A case by case study for solar PV projects will also be eliminated for projects that occupy less than 15 hectares, are at least 2km away from solar plants of more than 1MW and require the grid connection to be made through a 60kV line (or less) and with an extension of less than 10km.

The package of measures – the bulk of which are set to come into effect on 1 March 2023 – is designed to reduce bureaucracy for renewable projects, supporting Portugal’s aim to reach 80% of electricity production from renewables by 2026, according to Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa.

Costa, said: “We intend to accelerate the energy transition, intensify the economy’s decarbonisation, accelerate the circular economy and reduce day to day bureaucracy of the Public administration with citizens.”

This is not the first time the Portuguese government has waived environmental impact studies this year to spur development, having done so for solar PV projects under 50MW in March to support the same effort to reach the 80% of renewables target by 2026.

Within the first half of the year the country installed more solar capacity than the whole of 2021 with 578MW of solar PV added through 31 July 2022, thanks to this measure.

Moreover, under certain circumstances it will no longer be required to do an environmental assessment when changing the equipment or the installed capacity of a project.

Green hydrogen projects will also be covered by the new bureaucracy-reducing measures, and will see their environmental assessment waived in a move to increase production. Portugal expects to reach 2GW of electrolysis production by 2030.

Another measure that will reduce bureaucracy for renewable projects is the removal of the need to renew the environmental licence that lasts for ten years.

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