starting up our own green power production unit: 4 solar panels, March 2000
PV "van boven"

Zonnepanelen uit de ruimte - Solar panels on Earth out of space

© photographs Google Earth except where indicated


Solar Pergola and World Forum site in Barcelona (Spain)
Pérgola fotovoltaica na esplanada Fórum

Technical and General data
Detail photographs (Google Earth)
Life photographs (Polder PV) ADDED July 2008
Virtual Tour
Links (updated/checked July 2008)


Some while ago (April 2006), with Google Earth I visited the site where I thought the incredible "Solar Pergola" should be situated, on the terrain of the World Forum of Culture in Barcelona (Spain) that was open to the public from May till September 2004. I had seen a photograph of this "Solar World Wonder" and was curious if I could find this incredible PV-system with Google Earth. However, to my disappointment, the satellite photographs available at that time appeared to be taken during the preparations of the site, which is part of large-scale restoration projects to upgrade the coast-line in and around Barcelona. Hence, no "Pergola" could be seen at that stage.

However, taking another peek in the backyard of our Spanish fellow citizens with Google Earth in December 2006, there it suddenly stood out as a beautiful PV-Carré in a very interesting architectural setting that the Spanish developers have created in the incredible "World City of Architecture", Antonio Gaudi's beautiful Barcelona. In addition, two extra, large PV-arrays were visible on a new "building" on the Esplanade direct west of the Pergola site.

<ROLLOVER image> Solar Pergola (right, dark gray and standing on almost white background) and PV-system on Esplanade Building on the site of the 2004 Forum de les Cultures (left, light blue, in two arrays) as given by Google Earth in December 2006 (mouse pointer moved away from image), and in April 2006 (mouse pointer over image). Note the incredible changes in the landscape, and the complex architecture of the surroundings, new buildings, etc. Harbour at upper right corner, with long pier and small footbridge direct north of the Solar Pergola. Motorway* overlay, in blue, on the left, with a fraction of the dark triangular Forum Building (Edifici Fòrum).
South is on the bottom of the photographs unless otherwise indicated.


Map of Barcelona urban renovation planning area with locations of Solar Pergola (1) and Esplanade building (2) with 2 photovoltaic sub-systems (red circles). (3) is the triangular Forum Building. South in this map is approximately in the left lower corner.
(map source unknown - portion from off-line image)

Technical** and general data

of Solar Pergola and PV-array on new buildings
("central esplanade") on former Barcelona Forum site:

  • Built on location of former Besòs sewer plant (total urban renovation area 100 hectares)
  • All public buildings in this new area are heated and cooled by the municipal waste treatment plant.
  • Supported by the European Commission through its Sustainable Energy for Europe 2005-2008 programme (EUPRES project).
  • Height of Pergola up till 50 metres
  • Pergola provided shade for exhibition of hybrid vehicles during World Forum event
  • Surface area of Pergola 112 by 50 metres (5.600 m², "approximate size of one soccer field")
  • 2.686 frameless Isofoton monocrystallin I-165 PV-modules, hence 443,19 kWp
  • Modules have a power tolerance of 5% and have a transparent Tedlar coating
  • Due to high voltages used (> 600 Vdc), a permanent insulation monitoring device is installed
    inside the DC protection and control boxes of this high-yield PV-generator.
  • 3 125 kW ACEF inverters in master-slave configuration
  • Expected performance ratio of Pergola system: 1.250 kWh/kWp (annual yield app. 554 MWh/year)
  • Total PV-surface incl. new Esplanade system: 10.500 m²
  • Separate Esplanade system 850 kWp
  • Total PV-power installed on site (Pergola inclusive): 1,3 MWp (Spain's biggest urban system sofar)
  • PV on site will cover electricity consumption of app. 1.000 Barcelona households (1.900 MWh/year***)

  • Solar Forum photovoltaic project organisations:
    ENDESA: utility private company
    SERIDOM: execution and management of turn-key projects
    INABENSA: installation company
    ISOFOTON: manufacturer and project engineering of PV systems
  • PHÖNIX SONNENSTROM (Germany): planning, design, technical evaluation and monitoring concept

  • Barcelona has an average of 2.800 hours sunshine each year
  • The city has 55 projects to establish a more sustainable city model, whilst reducing environmental impact through energy savings, an increase in the use of renewable energies and energy efficiency.

* The Motorway is, on the Google Earth pictures, named, B10 and runs parallel to the coastal road called "Avingu da Litoral"
(or "Ronda del Litoral") that, in this section, has the prosaic name "Carretera de la Planta Incineradora d'Escombreries" on the GE overlay (referring to the incineration plant north of the Forum site)y.
** More details in the Isofoton publication on this PV-generator.
*** Number from MedioAmbiente pdf document. This would mean that average Barcelona household consumes 1.900 kWh/year.

Solar Pergola = SonnenSegel (German) = Pergola Fotovoltaica (Spanish)
= Placa Fotovoltaica (Catalan)

Detail photographs (satellite images © Google Earth)

Former World Forum site (GE photo Dec. 2006) with, on the white surface on the right the gigantic Solar Pergola (shade indicating satellite photo was taken in the morning). On the left two large, light-blue arrays of presumptive 850 kWp photovoltaic system on the flat roof of new buildings on the "Esplanade" (one source refers to this building as a "Sailing School", but that appears to be situated underneath the pergola fotovoltaica).
For details, click on the separate PV-arrays on this photograph.

Detail of the Solar Pergola, with, indicated by the red arrow, a car, to comprehend the enormous scale of this PV-Monster

Detail of westernmost half of the 850 kWp Esplanade undulating roof PV-system that seems to be fixed on a complex metal roofing frame structure. More details of this separate PV-array are as yet unavailable or not yet found on a web page [see however also new photo section further below].


Life on-site photographs: Polder PV visit of pergola fotovoltaica site, May 17-18 2008

One of our goals for our petit cycling trip Avignon (Southern France) - Barcelona - Avignon, more than 2.000 km in over 3 and a half weeks, was, of course, a three-day visit to Gaudi's town. And, naturellemente, included in this cycling adventure was an obligatory photovoltaic addict visit to the pergola fotovoltaica site (on the official Catalan city map it is called "placa fotovoltaica") in the coastal area of Barcelona's Sant Adrià de Besòs suburb. Having first bewildered our senses in the magnificent Parc Güell from master architect Gaudi in the western part of the city, we took the metro towards the northern boulevard, a region of Barcelona which has been drastically altered and upgraded, for the most part due to the Forum festivities in 2004. Having passed the equally mind-boggling triangular Forum building, we went "through" the central esplanade "building", which at that time was completely empty and that turned out to be a huge free-standing, undulating/zig-zag solar roof without "walls" underneath which various activities can take place. The whole roof, in a distant manner a little reminder of our own unique solar roof at the Floriade terrain near Hoofddorp (west of Schiphol) in the Netherlands, is standing totally free on several rows of pillars. Directly east of this huge PV-battery, towering over the new harbor, Marina Forum, and including a sailing school in its base, is the stupendous pergola fotovoltaica.

Here follow some pic's from both PV-arrays, taken on May 17, 2008. The series is concluded with a view towards the pergola fotovoltaica site (May 18th) from a balcony with phantastic panoramic views over the commercial harbour at the huge Castell de Montjuïc at the far southern end of Barcelona's coastal boulevard, over 6 kilometers farther south... All pictures are by Peter Segaar/Polder PV, Leiden, the Netherlands. For a close-up from the west, see also the beautiful picture made by my partner on the main Polder PV website (click on picture for full-scale size).

For enlargement: click on red-squared images and, if necessary, click again on appearing photograph.

Side view of a small portion from the peculiar "esplanade" PV-system, standing free on a lot of steel columns. The right hand side facing south is the solar part of the roof, the left hand (north facing) side, having a slightly lower inclination, consists of big glass panes without solar cells. The whole structure is naturally ventilated without enclosures - an important factor to consider in regions with high solar irradiation levels such as in Barcelona (crystalline solar cells produce considerable less power at higher environmental temperatures).
Underneath the central esplanade PV-roof, photograph taken app. in SE direction. The south-facing façade has glass laminate PV-modules in two rows per segment. The north-facing roof parts are made up of normal glass panels. Hence, maximum light can penetrate to the open floor whilst at the same time the roof produces over a thousand MWh of solar electricity on a yearly basis. From a sustainable, on the human scale everlasting energy source that falls out of the sky for free.
Looking towards the sea underneath the esplanada roof. The south-facing PV glass laminates can be clearly seen (note the different sloping angles of the south- and northern-facing roof parts, most probably to avoid shading of one roof segment upon the others), as well as the many pillars that keep the roof in the air. Inverters were not seen. Apparently the DC cabling is fed through the steel support structures into a separate small building alongside this roofing structure. When we visited this complex, no activities were taking place underneath this gigantic PV-roof.
Detail of one of the glass laminates. At large magnification of the picture, the label on the module reveals its source: the succesfull German producer Schott Solar made these beautiful modules. The glass-glass modules have 10 x 12 = 120 multicrystalline (square) solar cells each.
From underneath the Esplanade PV-roof one can already see the beautiful pergola fotovoltaica standing at the edge of the harbor for tourist boats, Marina Forum.
Astonishing architecture is the trade mark of Barcelona. Not only "old style" like Gaudi's unique and timeless buildings that still are a three-dimensional nightmare for most modern architects. Also industrial architecture can be found in various shapes, like pergola fotovoltaica, on the right. Even the vicinity was provided with modern creative touches, like the colourful street tile arrangements (even visible on the Google images), bizarre street lights, and the modern "stone arena" in front. The spacious area is a heaven on earth for skate-stunters. In the center the foot-bridge over the marina, at left the 3 brownish chimneys of the city's huge incineration plant.
Detail of pergola fotovoltaica from the front (southern) side. Because the pergola has a strong inclination, and the picture is taken almost parallel to this angle of inclination, perspective wrongly suggests that the solar modules risk being shadowed by the narrow balustrades in front of each row. Not so: the balustrades (safety measure for technical personnel) are placed at a sufficient distance from the modules. It is well known by experts that line-shaped shadows on serially interconnected PV-arrays can have drastic negative consequences for the power output (local shading). The engineers from Phönix Sonnenstrom apparently have planned this installation such that this type of shadowing does not occur on the Isofoton modules.
Three types of energy production: electricity from the burning of waste (incineration plant at far right), autonomous solar electricity combined with accu storage (foreground, light beacon with horizontal and vertical placement of solar cells), and net-integrated solar electricity on a grand, "Gaudi-worth" scale through Barcelona's pergola fotovoltaica, at left...
Pergola fotovoltaica from the "lower right" corner (SE), the lowest point of the obliquely placed huge PV-array. Underneath the solar array, in the basement of the concrete structure, a sailing school has found an interesting home base. Through a series of concrete stairs one can walk underneath the pergola. At right the southern end of the walking/cycling bridge over the marina.
The pergola from its eastern side facing the Mediterranean sea. Note the safety balustrades along the margins, the narrow "footpaths" between the PV-segments, and the overall very "airy" construction of the whole system, supported only by four seemingly fragile concrete pillars. A wonderful technical achievement by the builders.
Climbing the concrete stairs one cannot be left unimpressed by this huge glass, steel and concrete pergola directly overhead. Eastern "entrance". The walking "paths" separating the PV-"fields" each consisting of three rows of module blocks, are made of steel gratings. In addition, the Tedlar foil supporting the solar cells between the glass laminates is transparent, so that sunshine that is not falling onto the evenly spaced solar cells can penetrate through the whole pergola structure. The slightly larger black "spots" are the junction boxes of the separate modules.
Photograph taken from underneath the pergola straight into the sun. The frameless glass laminates (Isofoton I-165 Wp) have been prefabricated in blocks of 4x3 (12) modules on steel frames that were moved into the pergola structure with a crane in one piece. Each laminate appears to have two junction boxes in opposite corners. Each module has 9x12 (108) monocrystalline cells (at high magnification of the original pic's: rounded corners of the cells). Note the big space between the module block margins and the "footpaths", letting more light through the whole structure and enabling good natural ventilation of the PV-modules.
North-western (back-)side from the pergola (highest point), facing and actually dwarfing the new skyscraper skyline along Barcelona's Ronda Litoral causeway. In front of the skyscrapers the Esplanade roof, with the north-facing half (without solar cells, of course) directed to the right in the image.
The whole beautiful thing from a slightly larger (walking) distance. South from the pergola there is a small double pier made up of big concrete blocks, like those in the foreground (watch your step on these irregularly dumped blocks!). From this pier the whole structure can be seen in its full glory. In the background the three pipes of the huge incineration plant.
From a distance of app. 6,4 km (!) the oblique shape of the pergola fotovoltaica can still be seen, here slightly left from the middle of the horizon. This image is a "shot" from one of the panoramic balconies on the huge fortress on Montjuïc, in the green mountain parc with the same name (also including the Olympic Parc) at the southern coastline of Barcelona, bordering the commercial harbour. The skyscraper directly left from the pergola is one of two lining the coastal entrance of the important Marina road, which leads directly to the most famous building of Barcelona: la Sagrada Familia initiated by the visionary Antonio Gaudi. This skyscraper includes the Casino of Barcelona. In front: Port Vell.

All photographs in this section © Peter J. Segaar/Polder PV, Leiden, the Netherlands.

Virtual Tour

^^^  <ROLLOVER image>  ^^^
When moving mouse pointer over the button bar above, you will see the aerial (top) and local (bottom) views change.
Direction of local view indicated with red arrowhead in aerial views.
Note the spectacular views from, especially, the Solar Pergola.

Selected images taken and reorganised from the Ajuntament de Barcelona site
Visit that site (link above) for on-line virtual tour with mouse-controlled viewing of the area!


(updated and checked July 2008; dead links removed) (general website with many internal links, a selection following below) (short description of Pergola/PV project and some photo's) (panoramic photographic tours of 2004 Forum site) ("Forum Barcelona 2004 Protecting the Environment Educator’s guide") (interactive map of Barcelona) (virtual tour of Barcelona2004 World Forum site) (press release on opening ceremony) (extensive description of Barcelona sustainable energy policies)

Further PICTURES/PHOTOGRAPHS of Solar Pergola (photo of the underside of the Solar Pergola) (photo's taken from cruise ship on sea; Solar Pergola from nrs. 719-722) (beautiful photo, front view) (ibid, lateral view, both from THIS site) (nice photograph from below Solar Pergola) (from below; sun shining through the solar modules!) (Torres & Lapena, Architects) (fish-eye lens from behind) (Spanish article, two nice photographs)

© 2006-2008 Peter J. Segaar/Polder PV subsite, Leiden (NL)
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