The solar flower of the Botanical Garden is inaugurated, a symbol of an increasingly sustainable university
July 8, 2022

For a few months, when entering the Complutense Botanical Garden, the first thing the visitor came across was a strange and enormous flower, with the beauty of a revolving sculpture, but in reality it is more, much more. This July 7, the rector Joaquín Goyache and Jorge Gómez Sanz, vice-rector for Technology and Sustainability, have inaugurated this solar flower that they want to become a technological symbol of what microgeneration of energy represents for all the places of the UCM.

The great solar flower, as Jorge Goméz Sanz explains, works like a sunflower, closing at night so as not to spoil, and unfolding during the day, in a process that takes a few minutes. It also copies its movement from the sunflower, since it is oriented “towards the optimum point for capturing solar energy, optimizing the capacity of the flower, which is 2.5 kW peak, which means that at the maximum power generation it goes to get to that amount, and it will oscillate up to that amount as the sun moves.”

The Vice Chancellor reminds that conventional solar panels are not capable of doing this, but rather they are placed in a fixed way, with a certain inclination, where they are expected to capture most of the sunlight throughout the year. Therefore, the solar flower is much more efficient than fixed plates since it moves with the Sun throughout the day. The starting sequence, as those attending the inauguration were able to verify, always follows the same pattern: the flower is placed horizontally, it unfolds to the five meters in diameter it has and then it moves until nightfall.

The folding of the flower at night, when the solar panels by their very nature are useless, allows a self-cleaning of the surface of the flower. For this, it has brushes on the sides that make it clean when it is folded and that “the next day, when it is unfolded again, it does it again with optimum power and having removed most of the dust and substances that they may have joined.”

In addition, the flower has an anemometer to measure the speed of the wind, which means that if there were hurricane winds at any time, the flower would fold up to prevent it from being damaged. And the same would happen with other events of nature such as hail.

The vice-chancellor explains that the flower is completely automated and the energy it generates (about 6,300 kWh per year) is injected directly into the entire sub-network of the Botanical Garden. Both Gómez Sanz and the rector Joaquín Goyache explain that in the Complutense they consume about 49 GWh per year of energy certified at source as 100% renewable, and in addition those gigawatts come out at a very good price thanks to the management of one of the largest consortiums of public purchase of energy from Spain, the Consorci de Serveis Universitaris de Catalunya (CSUC), whose membership began to take shape in 2014. The money that the Complutense saves on energy is dedicated to “research, places, scholarships and making the university even more powerful.”

The rector Joaquín Goyache emphasizes the idea that this flower is one of the initial projects to continue making us more and more sustainable, “it is a granite in what we want the future of this university to be, it is a very nice step, which should mark the beginning of radical but slow change. Like the flower, you have to take the steps little by little”.

The next advances will be the installation of electric car chargers on campus, the renovation of the UCM thermal power plant, “which had become totally obsolete”, and the installation of solar panels. Jorge Gómez Sanz explains that in the first phase it will be done on fifteen rooftops, both in Moncloa and in Somosaguas and Chamberí Centro, which are expected to produce 1.56 MW peak, “which is very ambitious, and the plates could begin to be installed. late this year or early next.”

According to the Vice Chancellor, all these measures are ” an example of what all administrations should do, being self-sufficient as much as possible, and going further to meet the 2030 Agenda.”

The rector and the vice-rector agree that these measures, and those for the restoration of biodiversity at the UCM, set the pace of what sustainability must be, which “is only possible through the will of the entire Complutense community”.