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Spain city sets up solar cemetery

Santa Coloma de Gramanet cemetery
Solar panels are carefully angled to make them less obtrusive to families

A Spanish city has found an unusual place to generate renewable energy - the local cemetery.

Santa Coloma de Gramanet, near Barcelona, has placed 462 solar panels over its multi-storey mausoleums.

Officials say the scheme was initially greeted with derision, but families who use the cemetery eventually supported the idea following a public campaign.

There are now plans to erect more panels at the cemetery and triple the amount of electricity generated.

The cemetery was chosen for the project because it is one of only a few open, sunny places in the crowded city, which has a population of 124,000 crammed into 4 sq km (1.5 sq miles).

The installation cost 720,000 euros (608,000) but will keep about 62 tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere every year, said Esteve Serret, a director of Conste-Live Energy, the company that runs the cemetery and also works in renewable energy.

"The best tribute we can pay to our ancestors, whatever your religion may be, is to generate clean energy for new generations," he said.

Unobtrusive position

At the cemetery row after row of gleaming, blue-grey solar panels now rest on mausoleums which hold five levels of coffins.

The panels will create enough energy each year to supply the needs of 60 homes.

The panels face almost due south to soak up the maximum amount of sunshine and are tilted at a low angle to make them as unobtrusive as possible.

This installation is compatible with respect for the deceased and for the families of the deceased
Antoni Fogue, city councillor
City councillor Antoni Fogue said that public reaction was quite negative when the idea was first mooted three years ago.

"We heard things like, 'they are crazy. Who do they think they are? What a lack of respect!'," he told the Associated Press.

But town hall and cemetery officials then waged a public awareness campaign to outline the benefits of the project and to explain the respectful way in which it would be carried out.

"There has not been any problem whatsoever because people who go to the cemetery see that nothing has changed," Mr Fogue said.

"This installation is compatible with respect for the deceased and for the families of the deceased."

The solar panels cover less than 5% of the total surface area of the cemetery, which holds the remains of about 57,000 people, but there are plans to install more.

Santa Coloma de Gramanet - essentially a suburb of Barcelona that is home to more than 100,000 people - has four other solar parks, mostly on top of buildings, but the cemetery is by far the largest.

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