Barcelona: “Go Solar, Or Go Home”

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Bordering the eastern sunny fringe of Spain, Barcelona is determined to make as much use as possible of the 28,000 hours of sunshine it receives every year. Barcelona has reduced carbon emissions by making solar energy a requirement by law. The city is paving the way for widespread use of renewable energy, and more than 20 cities in Spain have already followed its lead, writes Mostafa Al Shalchi.

GO SOLAR, OR GO HOME

In a groundbreaking push for sustainable energy, Barcelona has chosen to legislate solar energy, rather than simply encourage it. Since 2000, all new buildings in Barcelona, as well as those undergoing major renovation, have had to install solar panels on their roofs to provide the majority of their hot water. Sustainability regulations called Solar Thermal Ordinance require solar panels to be fitted to all large buildings by law – the aim is for all buildings to heat 60 per cent of their own hot water.

COMPACT METROPOLIS

Barcelona is the first city in the world to be awarded the Biosphere award, which distinguishes it as a leader in sustainable tourism. Despite its small size and restricted building space, the city is committed to providing tourism that matches sustainable, environmental, cultural and socio-economic management criteria. A constricted area stretching from the western mountains to the famous Port of Barcelona, the city is recognised as one of the world’s most effective ‘smart cities’.

HOT AND COLD

Barcelona features a district heating and cooling network, which sources energy from an energy conversion plant that turns urban waste into renewable fuel. Spanning several kilometres underground and connecting at least 70 major buildings, district heating has reduced yearly carbon emissions by 22 per cent. The cooling system relies on a 5,000 m3 cold water storage tank, which stores water sourced from the nearby Mediterranean sea – another initiative that makes sustainable use of the environment’s vast resources.

CLEAN TRANSPORT

Eighty per cent of travel in Barcelona is by public transport, bicycle, or on foot. The city council constantly works to keep its infrastructure updated and efficient in hopes of eliminating the public’s reliance on personal vehicles. Barcelona is also the only city in Spain with automated underground trains, part of a long-term plan to automate at least 40 per cent of the network through driverless technology. Six million journeys are made per day in this bustling city, most of them through clean and safe travel alternatives.

BY CHILDREN, FOR CHILDREN

In 2001, the city council introduced an environmental education programme to schools within the city. Barcelona School Agenda 21 ensures entire communities surrounding schools get involved in providing sustainable solutions, and stay committed to the wellbeing of the environment. The city council aims to draw the educational community into participation with its sustainability initiatives. This has inspired similar effects around the city; in the last 30 years, green spaces in the city have increased by 150 per cent.

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Photo Credit: Luis Hernandez from Flickr.

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