Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Solar Cemetery

Photo: Courtesy Associated Press

The destruction man has wrought upon the planet is starting to demand some creative measures to overcome and/or compensate for the damage done. It is going to require that people open their minds to solutions that may not be quite to everyone’s liking; but, minds will have to rethink traditional concepts if we are to have any chance of salvaging our planet.

And so, a small Spanish town outside Barcelona has found a unique way to make the best of a land-poor situation. They lack a sufficient amount of flat, sun-soaked available land on which to implement their renewable energy program. What to do?

Santa Coloma de Gramenet, a working-class town of 124,000, is crowded into only 1.5 sq. mi. (4 sq. km.). City officials had exhausted all options in their search to find viable spaces to set up more solar panels in an effort to continue expanding their solar energy program. The town already has four smaller solar installations on top of local buildings; so, they are already used to utilizing non-traditional spaces.

Some might say the spot finally chosen might have been just too non-traditional for some. The city officials decided to set up the solar panels in the city cemetery.

Of course, some eyebrows were raised; and, Antoni Fogue, a key city council member behind the plan says, “Let’s say we heard things like, ‘they’re crazy. Who do they think they are? What a lack of respect!’” However, Fogue continues, "There has not been any problem whatsoever; because, people who go to the cemetery see that nothing has changed. This installation is compatible with respect for the deceased and for the families of the deceased."

A subsequent municipal public-awareness campaign showed the town how the solar panels could be a win-win situation. The low-angled installation would be unobtrusive and not cause any disharmony to the landscape of the area. The town would not only benefit now in the value of the solar energy reaped; but, this is a long-term project that will help the town far into the future. While the panels cover a mere 5% of the cemetery’s land area, they offset an estimated 62 tons of carbon emissions and there is still room for expansion if desired.

Now connected to the local energy grid, the 462 solar panels power 60 homes. Town council hopes to install more panels in the future to triple the output. Currently, the panels are located on top of dense rows of mausoleums, populated five layers deep.

"The best tribute we can pay to our ancestors, whatever your religion may be, is to generate clean energy for new generations. That is our leitmotif," says Esteve Serret, director of Conste-Live Energy, the renewable energy company that runs the solar cemetery in Santa Coloma.

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