PROVINCIA DE VALENCIA – A small village in Valencia is working on an ambitious project to become completely self-sufficient in energy consumption. In addition, this municipality also wants to generate energy on the basis of liquid pig manure and agricultural waste.
“There is no other way. We have to start living differently, with clean energy and less consumption. And I say that, as a butcher, but that’s the way it is. I hope the project succeeds.” Carmen is the butcher of the small village of Aras de Los Olmos, located in the countryside 110 kilometres northwest of the city of Valencia. The village with only 380 inhabitants has the great ambition to provide its own sustainable energy 24 hours a day. The idea arose five years ago and the project is now taking shape.
Clean air and lack of light pollution
The municipality wants to generate energy with a solar park, a wind turbine, a small hydroelectric power station, and an innovative biogas installation. With the residues, the land can be fertilised and the remaining water can be used for irrigation. Aras de Los Olmos wants to use the cleanest possible energy sources for a village known for its clean air. That clean air, together with the lack of light pollution, is the reason that two observatories have settled in Aras de Los Olmos.
The project has already received half a million euros in subsidy from the Spanish Ministry of Ecological Transition. A total of €4million is needed to ensure that energy is also available when there is no sun or wind. A lot of money for such a small village. But the plan meets the conditions for a subsidy from the European Recovery Fund, for the ecological transition and against the exodus of the countryside.
Many other subsidies were dropped because the municipality was the initiator rather than a company or group of citizens. Or because innovative installations were part of the project. Socialist mayor Rafa Giménez: “Either you believe in it or you throw in the towel. We want to use all available sources such as sun, wind, water, and biomass. That is why the technical university of Valencia has asked to investigate whether it is feasible to be a completely self-sufficient village.”
Completely self-sufficient village
What makes the project unique is that clean energy must be available 24 hours a day. The sustainable Canary Island of El Hierro still needs energy from non-renewable energy sources for a few hours a day. The biogas installation is crucial for this. It has to generate energy when there is a lack of other sources. Manuel Porcar of the University of Valencia is researching a technique with micro-organisms in biogas installations to get biogas of better quality faster. In the biogas installation that is being built in Aros de Los Olmos, he can scale up the research from the laboratory to a real installation.
First see, then believe…
Some residents have doubts about the outcome of the project because it has been talked about for years. “It’s a wonderful project. It looks good on paper, but I have yet to see it happen. You don’t know how the big companies will react, even if it is a project of a small village.’ José Domingo Saez also expresses his doubts: ‘I have a pig farm with solar panels on the roof. The plan sounds good, but it is expensive. I don’t see it that way yet. Who is going to transport that liquid manure? There is still so much to explore. But I must say that I am on the council for the opposition (of the Partido Popular).’