Roughly a third of global energy capacity is from renewable sources. Spain is working to increase that within its borders, with a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. One Spanish city is pioneering a new approach to help reach that goal.
Barcelona has installed solar energy pavement over 50 square meters in a small park in the Glories section of the city. It will generate about 7,560kW per year, which is enough to power about three households. After six months, city officials will determine how successful the idea has been and if it can be expanded.
Eloi Badia, who is managing the climate emergency and ecological transition at Barcelona city council, says, “We’ll have to assess the wear and tear because obviously it’s not the same as putting panels on a roof, although they are highly resistant.
“As for cost benefits, with a pilot scheme like this it’s difficult to know yet how much cheaper it would be if it were scaled up. We’re keen to install more on roofs and, if this scheme is successful, on the ground, to power lighting and other public facilities.”
While Spain has invested in solar energy on large farms in more rural areas, the panels are far from population centers. That’s why officials are looking at ways to increase renewables closer to cities. Badia notes that because Barcelona is so densely populated, it would be difficult to generate all the power needed within city limits to become self-sufficient.
He explains, “If we’re going to reach a target of zero emissions, we’re going to have to think about supplying electricity to blocks of flats, but we’ll also have to think of using wind and solar parks outside the city. But installations on the ground like this open up new possibilities, and not just for Barcelona.”
A large share of energy for cities could be generated by getting solar panels onto roofs throughout the country. Some say that this would be better for the environment because it wouldn’t lead to large projects in woodlands or agricultural lands. It would also help create jobs.
Fernando Prieto, executive director of the independent think tank Sustainability Observatory, says, “What we need to focus on is green policies to create employment, specifically to install solar panels on 1m rooftops. This would take five years, generate enough electricity for 7.5 million people, create over 15,000 jobs and cut CO2 emissions by 4.2m tonnes.”
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Barcelona has taken the initiative on making itself a greener city. It instituted a Zero Waste strategy in 2016, as well as several projects stemming from a climate emergency declaration from the city. Its climate plan focuses on protecting people from the impacts of climate change, transforming communal spaces in ways that tackle the risks faced, speeding up the introduction and efficiency of renewables within the city, and getting residents on board and in on the effort.Whizzco