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Extremadura bustles with solar energy

New workers have come to live in the town of Logrosán, which, with the construction of the photovoltaic park of Enel Green Power Spain, has raised its gaze to the sun to evolve in a sustainable way.

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are". This phrase belongs to the famous US president Theodore Roosevelt, but the residents of Logrosán seem to have made it their own. With the land and the sun, they have become a reference in developing photovoltaic parks in Spain. Logrosán buried its mining past years ago, which during its time, had contributed to extracting half of all calcium phosphate produced in Spain to manufacture chemical fertilisers. Now its residents lift their gaze to the sun and see a new resource and source of prosperity for the municipality.

With 12 photovoltaic parks under construction and 61 more projects being processed (of which 25 have already received administrative authorisation), Extremadura is bustling with the business of photovoltaic solar energy and Logrosán is one of its best examples. Proof of this is the photovoltaic park that Enel Green Power Spain (EGPE), Endesa’s renewable energies affiliate, is building in the town. The investment to build this park is approximately 94 million euros, and when the works are completed at the end of this year, it will be able to generate energy equivalent to the consumption of 61,000 families.

In Logrosán, there are barely over 2,000 residents, one-third of the nearly 6,600 residents counted in 1960. "I’ve worked here in Logrosán as a paediatrician for 31 years. Since the 2000s, there has been an evident decline in births", indicated Juan Carlos Hernández, who is also the town’s mayor.

Image of a woman at work

However, the town has been changing in recent months. Many residents have found jobs at the park, workers have arrived from other cities, there are no vacant apartments, and you can feel the energy on the streets, in the bars, restaurants, etc.

Juan Franco is one of those who has come to Logrosán to work in the construction of the photovoltaic park. For him, it is a return to his roots. The manager for the EGPE plant in Logrosán was born in Extremadura. After various stints in Turkey, Brazil and Uruguay during his professional career, he is now returning home. This civil engineer switched from public works to renewable energies. When he found out that a job was opening up in his hometown, he didn't think twice. Now he is very proud of how much the villages in the area are changing thanks to the development of renewable energies and he brags about the quality of the local raw material.

“In Extremadura, we have the best sun in Spain, and I would even extend that to all of Europe”

Juan Franco, manager of the Enel Green Power plant in Logrosán

He’s not wrong. Data from the National Statistics Institute (NIE, its acronym in Spanish) indicates that the province of Cáceres receives 3,000 hours of sunlight each year, a figure that is attracting numerous companies from the energy sector and that opens new job opportunities to the region, currently bogged down with a 22.5% unemployment rate.

Anabel Guillermo arrived in Logrosán six years ago. Several months ago, she saw a Facebook ad about the upcoming construction of a photovoltaic park in the town. She got more information at the town hall and was one of the 265 residents who took one of the free solar panel and structure assembly courses organised by the Endesa affiliate. She has been working in construction since January, checking that each and every one of the 378,000 solar panels that are being installed are well assembled.

Photovoltaic plant

Much more than jobs

Besides the 650 direct and indirect jobs generated in the construction phase, the project that Enel Green Power Spain is carrying out also brings other benefits to Logrosán. The company will carry out energy audits to reduce the energy consumption in 15 of the village’s public buildings, and in three of them, self-consuming photovoltaic panels will be installed.

One of those buildings is the residence for the elderly managed by the Association for the Training and Employment of Women in the Rural Environment (FEMAR). Isabel Villa, director of FEMAR, fondly remembers when the association was founded 18 years ago. The residence for the elderly project served to fulfil the double objective of increasing the employability of women and improving the lives of elderly residents, who receive assistance in their own village. Today, there are 67 elderly people and 40 workers (mostly women) living at the centre.

Isabel is now making the calculations to find out how much they will save on their energy bill: on the one hand, because of the energy audit and changing the lights to the more efficient LED technology, and on the other hand, through self-consumption. EGPE will install solar panels on the roof that are currently being used to provide electricity to the construction area of the park: 10 KW of power, with which "we will cut electricity by one-third", and also, "the panels last 25 years, so it’s not a one-off aid package; rather, it will be felt over the years", she pointed out with satisfaction.

This other side of photovoltaic projects, the measures to the community’s benefit, in which 230,000 euros will be invested, are for the mayor of Logrosán, a clear example of what companies in the 21st century should do.

“Companies must provide not only a timely source of revenue, provide jobs and generate taxes in the community where they are inserted, but they should also be involved more in the community’s everyday life”

Isabel Villa, director of FEMAR

For now, the power of renewable energies promises to give new life to the area, even to the mines, which have been abandoned for years. Maripaz Dorado, archaeologist, was hopeful that the resources that the renewable energies provide to the public coffers will be earmarked for investment in other projects like, for example, tourism of the mines.

As she tours the galleries of the Constanza Mine, where fluorapatite has been extracted for years, and was the fuel of the local economy for years. She was sure that the mass exodus caused by the end of mining in Logrosán would come back, at least partially, with the exploitation of new energy resources. This time, to open skies.

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