Barcelona – Sun City

Barcelona – Sun City

Earlier this year, we visited for a few days (far too few!) Barcelona. We stayed to the north of the city and long before reaching the Sagrada Familia and other attractions, we spotted the enormous La Pergola Photovoltaic Installation.

Barcelona - sun city

La Pergola Photovoltaic Installation, Barcelona


The above photo does not quite do justice to the Pergola’s size, with a surface area of 3,494m² and consists of 2,686 photovoltaic modules. At its highest point it is approx. 50m above sea level. It faces south (as Barcelona is in the northern hemisphere) at a 35° angle.

The pergola was connected to the electricity grid on 4 May 2004 as part of the World Forum of Culture, which took place in Barcelona from 9 May to 26 September 2004. This is an international event held every three years to promote peace, sustainable development, human rights, and respect for cultural diversity. The chosen site was a former industrial area on an extremely polluted river.

At that time, the Pergola was Europe’s largest urban solar power plant, and it still is the most powerful in Spain. The Pergola has a rated peak power of 443 kilowatts. Over a year, it supplies the electricity needs of about 1,000 inhabitants of Barcelona.

While the Pergola certainly catches the eye, it is only one part of a much wider plan that makes Barcelona a sun city. In 1999, Barcelona passed a Solar Thermal Ordinance (STO), the first European city to do so. The ordinance makes it compulsory to use solar energy to supply 60% of running hot water in all new buildings, renovated buildings, or buildings changing their use. This rule applies to both private and public buildings. The ordinances were extended in 2006 and all large new and renovated buildings have to comply with a “Technical Building Code”. Examples are large supermarkets and shopping centres, show grounds, office buildings, hotels and hospitals.

Other installations followed. In 2007, a municipal building was fitted with a solar cooling plant, by the end of 2008, 39 public buildings had installed solar cells. In 2009 solar bus stops were introduced. These bus stops have a photovoltaic panel in their upper section. The system consumes only 72 watts a day and can run for up to 5 days without direct sunshine. The bus stops feature a panel showing when the next bus or tram is due, which is updated every 30 seconds. The arrival of the next bus or tram is given in minutes and seconds – and for a Sydney-sider the most amazing thing is that the information is correct!

Another example is that the city is retrofitting its streetlights with LED bulbs that run on motion sensors, expected to decrease the city’s municipal power bill by a third.

Last year, Barcelona was rated one of the cities with the lowest per capita greenhouse gas emission levels in the industrialized world, at under 4 metric tons of emissions per person per year (Houston is at 14.1 and Paris is at 5.2) and is well on its way to improve these stats by 2020.


Caamaño-Martín, E., ‘Strategies for the development of PV in Barcelona’, PV Upscale (2008). URL: [last accessed 22 April 2015]

Elcacho, J., ‘Harnessing the Power of the Sun at the Forum’, Barcelona Metropolis (October 2008 – March 2009). URL: [last accessed 14 April 2015]

Guevara-Stone, L., ‘Barcelona: Spain’s city of the sun’, Renew Economy (12 Aug. 2014). URL: [last accessed 14 April 2015]

New York City Global Partners, ‘Best Practice: Promoting Solar Energy’ (20 May 2011). URL: [last accessed 14 April 2015]

‘Solar Pergola in Barcelona inaugurated’, Phoenix Solar (13 May 2004). URL: [last accessed 14 April 2015]

‘Barcelona solar energy’, WMF (1 March 2012). URL: [last accessed 15 April 2015]

2 thoughts on “Barcelona – Sun City

  1. Fantastic! A well researched article which gave me a lot more insight than when we were actually there as the information was all in Spanish!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s