Seville generates clean energy with bitter oranges

by Lorraine Williamson
oranges in Sevilla

SEVILLE – In the spring it often smells wonderful in Seville. Numerous streets in the southern Spanish city are brightened by oranges on the trees. And when they are in bloom it smells so typical and almost intoxicating of “azahar” (orange blossom). 

5.7 million kilos of oranges

Anyone who has ever tasted such an orange in Spain knows that they cannot be eaten. The fruits taste very bitter. This type of orange tree was introduced to Spain by the Moors. The Andalusian capital is the city in Spain with the most orange trees. There are at least 50,000 and they are expected to deliver approximately 5.7million kilos of oranges this year. That is an increase of 37.5% compared to the harvest of last season 2019/2020. 

However, this year, the municipality was forced to take action earlier than usual. They had to harvest the oranges and remove them from the streets to prevent inconvenience to residents. As a result of an exuberant flowering season last year, each tree now produces about 80 to 110 kilos of oranges. 

A new role for the bitter oranges

The municipal water and purification company Emasesa has now found a new role for the bitter oranges. It is an innovative urban recycling project. Furthermore, the juice from millions of bitter fruit will be used to generate electricity through biogas. Therefore, the oranges are thus used for a circular economy to combat the negative effects of climate change. 

Normally, the oranges fell from the tree, and were left on sidewalks and streets. As a result, often rotting and trampled or driven over by passing pedestrians and cars. Ultimately, the municipal sanitation department came to clean them up and dump them somewhere. Additionally, local residents complained about the nuisance caused by the fruits and the pulp. Consequently they attracted fruit flies and were regularly the cause of slips or even a bump on a head. 

Cogesa Expats

Green energy from the juice of the oranges

That situation is now a thing of the past. “Emasesa is already promoting a pilot project in the water purification company for the second consecutive year. This is to generate green energy from the juice,” the company wrote in a press release. 

The juice of this bitter fruitage ensures a very fast fermentation process. Fast enough to power 5 homes for one day on the basis of 1,000 kilos of oranges. The remains after pressing are used to make compost used for the regeneration of agricultural fields in the province. 

The team behind the project has calculated that if all the oranges in the city are used for this initiative, 73,000 Seville homes could be supplied with green – or rather orange – power during the harvest period.

No longer popular for marmalade

Before Emasesa introduced its green project, much of the oranges from Seville were used to make the marmalade. Until preference were given to oranges from smaller places because of the pollution. 

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