A secondary school and residents’ association have partnered with Barcelona City Council to create a solar-powered community that can grow – roof-to-roof – across large areas of the city.
The solar panels installed on the roof of the Lycée des Quatre Cantons in the former industrial district of Poblenou supply electricity to the school and 30 homes in the surrounding area.
Each household has 500W of free electricity, a 25% reduction on their bill.
The idea was first proposed in 2019, says Marike Charlier, spokesperson for the residents’ association, and began to materialize during discussions with the school in Les Quatre Cantons.
César Ochoa, a maths teacher at the school who also sits on its sustainability committee, said the school’s drive to reduce energy use is in line with residents’ plans and, in a first for an energy community of this nature, the council agreed to pay the €94,000 (£80,000) for the installation of solar panels on the roof of the school.
The 30 households then became customers of Barcelona Energia, the municipal electricity company, replacing the private company Endesa, although the latter was slow to hand over the connection.
“Once it is operational, the school will get 30% of the electricity produced,” says Ochoa. “It will only meet some of his needs, but it is only a pilot project. Obviously, during the school holidays, this energy will be available for all those who need it.
Solar power declined in Spain under the previous Conservative government after it imposed a “solar tax” on individual consumers or energy communities, which major power companies called unfair competition.
The tax has been removed under the current government and solar installations are skyrocketing, accompanied by a move towards localized rooftop installations, such as Quatre Cantons, rather than huge solar parks miles from population centers.
Last year Spain produces around 46% of its energy from renewables but solar (1.8%) is still lagging behind wind (23%) and hydro (11.4%).
According to Spanish law, solar installations can only provide electricity within a radius of 500 m (the rule is 2 km in France and Portugal), but the idea has always been to extend it beyond 500 m from the school, explains Charlier.
She points out that there are 11 other public buildings within 500m (1,640ft) of Quatre Cantons where further facilities could radically increase the power available and extend the project across the district.
The city council has set itself the goal of increasing solar energy in the public and private sector fivefold by 2030.
“These energy communities are really special and make it possible to find solutions that would not otherwise be viable, but which are not scalable for the whole city”, explains Eloi Badia, advisor for climate change and ecological transition. “At the end of the day, the solution for Barcelona is for everyone to have solar panels on their roof.”