A Spanish town outside of Barcelona has found a way to make the best of a cramped situation: lacking sufficient flat, sun-soaked land to implement their renewable energy program, they opted to install solar panels in their local cemetery. Santa Coloma de Gramenet is a working-class town of 124,000, densely packed into only four square kilometres (1.5 square miles). After exhausting all options in their search to find a viable place to set up their expanding solar energy program – which already included four smaller solar installations on top of local buildings – officials finally settled on the cemetery. So what did those involved have to say about this unusual project – bound to raise eyebrows (and hopefully no zombies)? «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.
Connected to the local energy grid, the cemetery’s 462 solar panels produce enough energy to power 60 homes. The town council hopes to install more in the future to triple energy output. Currently, the panels sit on top of dense rows of mausoleums, populated five layers deep. Of course, initially there was indignation. «Let’s say we heard things like, ‘they’re crazy. Who do they think they are? What a lack of respect!’ » says Antoni Fogue, one key city council member behind the plan. But a subsequent municipal public-awareness campaign convinced the town that the panels’ low-angled installation would be unobtrusive, and the payoff would be in the long-term interests of the town.
The panels only cover a mere 5 percent of the cemetery’s land area, but offset an estimated 62 tons of carbon emissions. «There has not been any problem whatsoever because people who go to the cemetery see that nothing has changed,» Fogue continues. «This installation is compatible with respect for the deceased and for the families of the deceased.»