Chiclana de Segura (Jaén) has found a way to engage its inhabitants. It has joined the new club of solar communities. A proximity energy model through which residents and small businesses receive renewable energy from panels installed in the school of this town in the El Condado region. The City Council, owner of the hitherto underutilized roof of the school, receives rent for the transfer of space. The retailer assumes the cost of the installation and its maintenance and ensures the supply of energy regardless of the hours of sun. These solar communities, which are always located in urban centers, either in towns like Chiclana de Segura or in large cities, contribute to reducing carbon dioxide emissions. A system as round as the circular economy model they represent.
The County has been a pioneer in the development of this shared self-consumption model. This region is made up of eight very cohesive municipalities, accustomed to undertaking joint initiatives. The Chiclana de Segura City Council (1,119 inhabitants, according to the 2021 census) installed photovoltaic panels a year ago on the roof of the Santa María de Nazaret public school, which generate energy for 55 users. In other municipalities of El Condado, the solar panels are located in a health center, a food market, a retirement home or in other public buildings of a different nature.
Santiago Rodríguez, the mayor of Chiclana de Segura, recognizes the enthusiasm of the town for generating its own energy. “Families save money on their bills and CO₂ emissions are reduced”, affirms the councilor of this Jaén town that lives from the olive grove. “It is good for the neighbors and for the municipal coffers”, adds Rodríguez, who points out a collateral benefit when the panels are found in the school: “Pedagogy”, he sums up. “Teachers teach children that you have to take care of the planet,” he describes.
Alfonso Flores is one of the business managers at Repsol Solmatch, the company that created the solar community in Chiclana de Segura and in the other municipalities of El Condado, and which already has more than 300 throughout Spain. Flores points out the need for these public-private collaborations to continue: “The administrations have many buildings on their own,” he says. The solar panels have been located in the school, but they could be installed in the cultural center or in a health center, as is the case in Navas de San Juan.
Joaquín Requena is the mayor of this municipality of 4,473 inhabitants who also lives from the olive grove. He highlights, like his counterpart from Chiclana, the benefit for the planet and for the neighbors, who have seen how their electricity bill was contained in times of energy crisis. Requena assures that the energy obtained from the panels installed in the health center is priced at one cent per kWh, which explains why members of the solar community pay up to 20% less.
The differences between solar irradiation
Solar communities have a place both in El Condado, a region with many hours of sunshine, and in a council from Galicia. It should only be taken into account that in regions such as Jaén, the same number of panels allows more users to hook up than in an area with less solar radiation. But the viability of this way of obtaining renewable and local energy has been demonstrated throughout the territory.
The companies in charge of installing the panels and supplying the energy obtained not only reach agreements with the Administration for the use of underused rooftops. Collaborations are also signed with private entities, such as the educational institution La Salle, which has allowed the creation of solar communities in 30 of its centers. The system is the same. The panels located on the roof of one of these schools make it possible to supply local and renewable energy to homes and small businesses that are no more than 1,000 meters away, without having to carry out any work or installation.
The average number of users that benefit in each solar community is 70. It depends on the solar radiation and the surface of the roof. If the average consumption of a home in Spain is taken as a reference, at least 15% of the energy obtained comes from these solar panels, while the rest is supplied from renewable sources that have a certificate of origin. To guarantee that each user receives his percentage of solar energy, there cannot be infinitely many clients hooked into the community. It is about creating nodes close to consumers to “stop depending on a large power plant and move towards a distributed generation energy model”.
What does the user have to do?
Nothing and everything. “It has no impact on your life. But your life changes from one day to the next”, summarizes Flores, referring to the fact that no work or installation is required in homes, you just have to check that there is a solar community with places available and sign up. The retailer is in charge of the procedures and, once self-consumption is activated, the energy with which the oven is turned on comes from the solar panels installed on the roof of a shopping center, to give another real example.