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Germany-Greece in Talks Over Massive Solar Project

Greece is looking to the sun for a plan that will help it emerge from its deep economic troubles, and solar giant and EU powerhouse Germany may be the beneficiary.

According to a report Saturday in Greek daily newspaper Ta Nea, a $29 billion project (€20 billion) could create as many as 60,000 positions in jobs-starved Greece by harvesting its abundant sunshine and shipping it to Germany, which has committed itself to moving rapidly away from nuclear power following Japan’s earthquake and nuclear crisis.

According to the newspaper, Greece’s Environment Minister George Papaconstantinou and Germany's Deputy Economy Minister Stefan Kapferer discussed the plan, named Project Helios, during talks in Athens last week.

The International Herald Tribune said the project aims to reach 10 GW of capacity, which would rival it with the 10.2 GW produced by Public Power Corporation, Greece's main electricity company. The project, the site said, would require 200 square kilometers of public land.

Despite a national feed-in-tariff, solar installations have been slow to develop in Greece, as the nation continues to battle debt and uncertainty. However, in January, Greece announced plans to build a 200 MW photovoltaic solar park expected to cost $807 million over spent lignite mines in Kozani, a city in northern Greece located south of the border with the Republic of Macedonia.

According to an EPIA 2010 report, Greece had 206 MW of grid-connected PV by the end of last year. The government has set a target of 2.2 GW installed capacity by 2020, including all solar technologies, with an intermediate target of 1.27 GW by 2015. Germany, meanwhile, connected 7.4 GW of photovoltaics in 2010 and had more than 17 GW cumulative by the end of the year. The country also has a national target of 51 GW for 2020.  

The Greece-Germany project is seen as a way to reinvigorate the Greek economy through a new industry while helping Germany prepare for its energy future. In August, figures from national statistics agency Elstat showed a sharp rise in unemployment in Greece as 16.6 percent of the population is out of work, up from 15.8 percent a month earlier. The biggest concern, however, was in the year-to-year rise, which saw the figure jump from 12 percent last August.

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