The Work

Spain is a world leader in wind and solar power technology, achieving 12% of its primary energy from renewable sources by 2010, with the aim of reaching 20% by 2020. Spain is the fourth largest manufacturer in the world of solar power technology and accounts for 40% of the world’s solar installations. Despite the economic downturn, lower manufacturing costs mean that in the longer term solar energy production could match the output of fossil fuels.

Redondo photographs some of the vast solar plants across different regions of Spain creating beautiful, arresting and visually informative images from land and air. He also photographs small-scale community usage. Enough solar energy falls on the earth’s surface in 20 minutes to meet the planet’s annual energy needs. Redondo says: “Our reliance on fossil fuels is increasingly unsustainable as resources deplete and costs soar and the negative effects of climate change are being experienced globally. Development and investment in renewable resources is essential to reduce CO2 emissions, whilst creating sustainable energy production for our future.”

  • The rapid expansion of the solar industry in Spain in the last decade has resulted in the construction of huge solar power plants. Planta Solar 10 and 20 (PS10, PS20) located in Sanlucar la Mayor (near Seville) were constructed in 2009 and are owned by Abengoa Solar.
  • They use concentrated solar power technology and are the first commercial solar towers.
  • They utilise fields of large heliostats (mirrors), measuring 120 square meters each, which track the path of the sun across the sky. The heliostats concentrate the sun’s rays to the top of two towers, 115 metres and 165 metres in height, where a solar receiver is located.

    Water pumped up the tower and through the receiver boils into steam at 275°C which is directed through a steam turbine to produce electricity.

  • PS10 is an 11 MW plant and collects solar radiation from 624 heliostats and PS20 is a 20 MW plant with 1255 heliostats. Together they form part of a solar complex which, when completed, will supply sufficient power for 180,000 homes, enough for the city of Seville.

    This will prevent emissions of more than 600,000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year over its 25-year life.

  • Thermo template glass being produced using robot technology at the Rioglass Solar factory in Pole de Lena, northern Spain. The company is a leader in the production of the thermo template glass used for concentrated solar power and photovoltaic installations.

    Investment in Spain’s solar industry has resulted in the company producing more than 1.3 million solar mirrors annually, including the ones at the solar plants featured.

  • The Gemasolar solar thermal plant uses molten salt heat storage, a revolutionary technology that enables the plant to produce electricity 24 hours a day for nine months of the year.
  • The 19 MW plant located near Seville is owned by Torresol Energy and was completed in 2011.
  • The molten salt heat storage process stores solar radiation generated by the 2,650 tracking heliostats in special tanks, which is then released on demand to drive steam turbines to generate electricity.
  • It can generate sufficient power for 25,000 homes, reducing CO2 emissions by 30,000 tons each year.
  • The high capacity factor of the Gemasolar plant makes it a replicable technology that could be used in desert areas around the world.
  • La Dehesa is a 50 MW concentrated solar power plant using a parabolic trough to radiate solar energy which is then stored with molten salts technology, so able to generate electricity for up to 7 hours without sunshine.
  • With an annual production of 160 million kwh, La Dehesa supplies electricity for more than 45,000 homes.
  • The plant prevents the emission of 160,000 tons of carbon dioxide, the same amount a coal thermal plant would produce to provide the same amount of energy.
  • Ochanduri is a small town with around 120 habitants, in la Rioja, Spain. The community is a model of low-level sustainability with the residents investing in a photovoltaic installation located on land near the village which provides solar generated electricity for the whole town.
  • The project was initiated by engineer Juan Narvarte, an Ochanduri resident, who proposed the 600KW photovoltaic solar farm to the village.
  • Juan is convinced of the benefits it has brought to the community. ‘Investing in a 5KW solar cell is more profitable than investing in life insurance. I wanted to demonstrate that anyone could get to a solar photovoltaic installation and benefit from it.’
  • Santa Gadea is an innovative ecological cheese farm in the province of Burgos in northern Spain. The farm uses renewable sources for its energy supply and employs Effective Micro-organisms (EM) technology to create a natural balance in the organisms used in farming, with the aim of reducing methane and CO2 emissions.
  • It prohibits the use of chemical fertilizers, antibiotics and genetically modified products and sustainably manages the natural forests around the farm.
  • The farm uses a combination of thermo solar, photovoltaic solar and wind technology to generate more clean energy than it consumes, achieving a carbon neutral status.
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The Photographer

Markel Redondo

The day before Markel Redondo was due to begin a degree in Computer Sciences at the University of Bolton, he decided to pursue a career in photography instead.

He headed to China where, while studying for an MA in Photojournalism, he worked for a number of agencies, newspapers and magazines. In 2008 he returned to his hometown Bilbao, and now divides his time between Spain and France.

Focusing on social and environmental issues, Markel has exhibited in Singapore, New York, Valencia, Ireland and Kuala Lumpur and has undertaken commission for Greenpeace, UNESCO and the British Council.

Markel’s photographs have been published widely in Newsweek, The Times, Le Monde, Le Figaro Magazine, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Sunday Telegraph; and he has recently been named as one of the photographers to watch by the magazine PDN.

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