Solar paving
Solar paving. Credit: Barcelona City Council

A paved area of 50 square metres is set to generate electricity using solar power in Plaça de les Glòries, Barcelona, Spain. The installation should generate 7,560kWh per year, equivalent to the annual consumption of three homes and save 2,722kg of CO2 per year.

The project won the municipal challenge ‘Generator pavements’, which sought innovative solutions for generating renewable energy using city infrastructures.

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The system will be monitored in real-time to control its efficiency and in approximately six months, a commission will assess the results and look at the feasibility of replicating the formula in other places in the city.

“We’ll have to assess the wear and tear because obviously it’s not the same as putting panels on a roof, although they are highly resistant,” says Eloi Badia, who is responsible for climate emergency and ecological transition at Barcelona city council in an interview with The Guardian.

Credit: Barcelona City Council

The system uses a highly resistant anti-slip glass connected with photovoltaic modules and cabling to feed the energy into the general grid. The paving area will be able to maintain its function as a pavement.

The city has contributed €30,000 ($36,300) towards the cost, the remainder to be added by the manufacturer.

The initiative is aligned with the city’s overall goal of changing the energy model and helping to halve greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030 (compared to 1992), and for the city to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Barcelona City Council, through the Barcelona Energy Agency (AEB) and the i.lab programme, and with the support of the BIT Habitat Foundation, launched the ‘Paving generators’ challenge in 2019 to explore innovation in generating renewable energy through existing infrastructures, in this case, the city’s paved surfaces.

In light of the city’s 2030 emission targets, Barcelona committed to investigating whether fitting renewable-energy generation mechanisms in the city’s paved surfaces could make a significant contribution to reducing emissions. Barcelona has around 1,380 linear km of streets, with a surface area of 11 km2 of roads and 9 km2 of pavements, which form a larger surface area than the city’s 17.64 km2 of roof terraces, infrastructure that lends itself to the experiment.

Another example of using infrastructure to generate energy is found in India, where the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies in Dehradun is studying how to harvest energy from footsteps. Research published in the De Gruyter journal, Energy Harvesting and Systems, shows that Indian attitudes towards power generated through piezoelectric tiles are overwhelmingly positive. Read more about the project.