Day 2: From waste to energy
Our day started early in the morning before sunrise. We left our hostel at eight o’clock in the morning and headed for our first excursion of the day. The first location was the energy recovery plant of TERSA. The travel to the plant took a while, because it was located on the edge of Barcelona.
Once at the site and after finding the right entrance, we were greeted by our tour guide Augusti Ferra. He spoke only Spanish but luckily Susanna was a great interpreter for us! Our tour started with a slide show and general information about TERSA, its subsidiaries Semesa and Siresa and the energy recovery plant.
TERSA aka Tratamiento y Selección de Residuos is a public company that could simply be described as the key player in waste management and production of sustainable energy in the metropolitan area of Barcelona. The company provides 41% of the energy in the region which equates to over 3.2 million people. The energy and district heating are mainly generated from biogas in one of TERSAs four plants in the region. To separate the organic waste to produce biogas, all four plants have an ecopark where the regional waste is separated and utilized further. Since the energy generated from their facilities is 100% solid sustainable energy, we can note that the future of Barcelona area seems pretty green, eheh.
In addition to the municipal level of operation, TERSA has tapped onto the waste management issue on the grass-root level; providing civic education on recycling and offering different kinds of local and domestic recycling solutions such as drop-off points for excess furniture.
The key take-away from all this is that having the pleasure of excursioning into TERSAs plant was going to be one of the highlights of our abroad excursion.
After our thirst of knowledge was satisfied, we got to go on a tour around the plant. We started by checking out the massive “claw machines” which transferred the waste to the incinerators. Right after that we went to get a look at the incinerators themselves. The waste that they used in the incinerators was the kind that couldn’t be recycled, so it was burned to create as much heat as possible. We even had the chance to peek at the actual flames through a little window. Then we got to look at the turbines that created electricity from the steam. From there we headed out to visit the Ecopark where they sorted the incoming waste.
Our guide was switched, so we thanked and said farewell to Augusti. This time around our second guide talked English so we didn’t need Susanna’s translations anymore. Thank you, Susanna, for your services!
We did a tour around Ecopark, where we were told about the ways they sorted the waste. First of all, we got to see again two other awesome giant “claw machines” at work sorting waste to be treated and sorted. Then we were educated about the ways to sort waste, for example to biodegradable, plastics and metals. The sorted recyclable waste where to be sold to other companies for materials. And so, starts cycle of the materials all over again!
The second excursion of the day was provided by Halton. This lunch-oriented excursion could not have happened at a better time; it had been several hours since any of us had anything to eat and everyone was more than ready for lunch.
The Finnish company is operating in over 30 countries worldwide and provides air-conditioning products and services to public buildings, apartment complexes and industrial scale kitchens among other things. They had recently installed a new ventilating system to a customer of theirs, Vapiano, so we were invited to see their work and have a satisfying lunch simultaneously.
The ventilating system proved effective; although the restaurant prepares all of their dishes in front of the customers, a large ventilation system manages to capture all of the vapor and smoke so that little of the plumes escape to the dining space. In part thanks to the system, we could fully indulge in our lunch! A big thank you to Halton for the experience!
Once we had our filling of antipasti, pizza, pasta and desserts, we were free to roam the city. The group scattered and everyone did what they deemed the best way to spend a sunny day in busy Barcelona. I, for one, was eager to hit the beach and try to capture some sun before it escaped again behind the city skyline. What better way to end an activity-filled day than go lay down on the beach and refresh in the Mediterranean?