CIRSA: Solar thermal cooling technology in Terrassa reduces energy consumption by 28%

In September 2017, CIRSA implemented a solar thermal cooling technology in the cooling system of its corporate building in Terrassa (Spain). It is a process that places a 5-panel heat exchanger between the compressor and the condenser, using solar energy to heat the refrigerant and thereby reduce the workload of the compressors, thus achieving substantial energy reductions.

Fact sheet

  • Company: CIRSA
  • Site: Edificio CIRSA
  • Location: Terrassa, Barcelona
  • Country: Spain

  • 28% annual decrease in energy consumption from cooling systems
  • 10.5 tCO2 GHG emission reduction per year
  • Annual monetary savings of 6,500 EUR

What makes this site special?

CIRSA is a worldwide leader in the gaming and leisure industries and the largest Spanish company in the sector. In 2017, CIRSA achieved an operating profit of 427 million euro and an operating income of 1,716 million euro. With 14,500 employees, the company provides a broad range of facilities, including 146 casinos, over 39,200 gaming machines, 70 bingo halls, 188 arcades, 3,000 sports betting outlets and more than 2,500 video lottery terminals in Spain, Italy and Latin America. The company also operates an online gambling business in Spain, Colombia and Panama, where it holds the relevant licences.

CIRSA receives more than 60 million visitors across its facilities each year. Because of the nature of CIRSA’s operations, its daily activities last up to 19 hours. This translates into high energy consumption that sums up to 29 GWh/year in Spain.

The Terrassa building in Spain is the company’s head office and has an annual energy consumption of around 0.6 GWh/year. The installation of a solar thermal cooling system at this site provided CIRSA with the necessary knowledge and experience to confidently implement the technology at other locations.

CIRSA is committed to achieving energy efficiency and reducing energy consumption in their cooling systems, as reflected by the fact that they have implemented the technology in other buildings in Panama and Colombia

At CIRSA, between 30% and 55% of total energy consumption comes from their buildings air conditioning, making them an obvious focal point for energy efficiency efforts. An attractive and relatively new option was identified in the integration of solar thermal technology into a cooling cycle to bring about significant energy savings.

CIRSA decided to bet on a solar thermal cooling system for the first time with several small pilot plants in Panama, some of which achieved yearly savings in energy consumption from the refrigeration system of up to 62%. Furthermore, peak demand from the system was reduced from 361 kWh to 137 kWh. The success reflected in Panama gave them the needed push to make a larger investment in a plant for one of their casinos in Medellin, Colombia, that has also brought about significant annual monetary and energy savings. Specifically, annual reduction in energy consumption added up to about 0.5 GWh, a 19% decrease.

As a result of the successful implementation of the technology in Latin America, in 2017 CIRSA took a decisive step and installed a 300 kWth solar thermal cooling system plant on a 100 kWth Carrier chiller at their head office in Terrassa. For the necessary investment they opted for leasing as their financing method, with an expected payback period of three to four years.

In Spain, although the technology operates throughout the year, the solar radiation levels needed to achieve energy savings are reached only between the months of April and September. The COP (Coefficient of Performance) improvement varies depending on radiation, so when there is no radiation, or it is nighttime the machine maintains a factory-level COP, that is, the solar thermal system does not bring about an improvement.

To ensure that the implementation was conducted as smoothly as possible, two technology experts supervised the installation on-site. With their help, tests were conducted, and a monitoring system was installed to screen the technology’s performance with precision regarding electricity consumption and thermal production. The tests were carried out in October with average solar radiation levels and capacity operation between 33% and 66% and information was recorded between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. over nine days. Over the testing period no incidents were observed, and the technology was successfully implemented.

“At CIRSA, we felt we needed to test the technology in Spain to confidently approach new projects and installations involving solar thermal cooling systems. With this in mind, we contacted a provider interested in the development of the solution and invested time and resources to acquire the necessary training and knowledge to successfully integrate it in our building in Terrassa.”

Enrique Pérez Abad, Energy Efficiency Manager

Solar thermal cooling system, CIRSA, Terrassa, Spain
CIRSA installed a 300 kWth solar thermal cooling system plant on a 100 kWth Carrier chiller at their head office in Terrassa, Spain. The expected payback period is three to four years.

Energy consumption from the building’s heating and cooling system has decreased by 28% since the implementation of the technology and GHG emissions have been reduced by 10.5 tCO2 per year

One of the advantages presented by the solar thermal cooling technology installed by CIRSA is that analysis on savings are easy and precise because of the control programme that was installed. The analysis established that yearly energy consumption savings of 28% have been achieved and annual GHG emissions have been reduced by 10.5 tCO2 thanks to the implementation. Furthermore, a 12% COP improvement was registered.
Other benefits presented by the technology are:

  • The decrease in consumption is achieved in peak hours, when energy is most expensive
  • Because of the reduction in the use of the compressors, there is an increase in their life expectancy
  • The technology can be installed on new or existing cooling systems
  • The technology is scalable as it can be implemented on any cooling system
  • Maintenance of the panels is limited as they only require basic cleaning


Renewable energy cooperatives

Innovative renewable energy cooperatives are leading the energy transition to energy democracy

A renewable energy cooperative, or REScoop, is a business model in which citizens jointly own and participate in renewable energy or energy efficiency projects. REScoops are also known as community power or community energy initiatives. The European federation of renewable energy cooperatives is It’s a growing network of 1,250 European energy cooperatives and one million citizens who are active in the energy transition.

REScoops generate sustainable energy from local sources thanks to the participation of local citizens. For example, a citizen can become a co-owner of a nearby wind turbine, hydropower installation or solar panels, and no longer needs to depend on a big utility company or worry about rising energy prices.

REScoops typically respect seven principles that have been duly outlined by the International Cooperative Alliance:

  1. Voluntary and Open Membership
  2. Democratic Member Control
  3. Economic Participation through Direct Ownership
  4. Autonomy and Independence
  5. Education, Training and Information
  6. Cooperation among Cooperatives
  7. Concern for Community

Citizens can also actively participate in the cooperative, helping to decide in what and where the REScoop can invest, and in setting the energy price.

To expand the European REScoop movement, has produced a number of tools that provide conceptual frameworks to help start a community power initiative. They include European best practices, and advice on the optimum business model. also helps starters find out how to engage and manage stakeholders, and how to finance renewable energy projects.

RESCoop has produced this short video on renewable energy cooperatives:

OPEL ESPAÑA: Implementation of Energy Management System ISO 50001 in 2012

In 2012, OPEL ESPAÑA, supported by Creara Energy Experts, implemented the energy management system ISO 50001 , which had a positive impact on the productivity and management of OPEL ESPAÑA’s facilities.

Fact sheet

  • Company: OPEL ESPAÑA S.L.U
  • Site: Figueruelas Plant
  • Location: Figueruelas, Zaragoza
  • Country: Spain

  • Annual decrease of 4-6% in energy consumption since 2012
  • 21% decrease in CO2 emissions since 2012
  • Related energy cost savings

What makes this site special?

OPEL ESPAÑA’s Zaragoza production center is a large industrial facility dedicated to the manufacturing of vehicles and vehicle parts, as well as to maintenance and logistics activities. Almost 5,000 employees work in the plant.

The site is OPEL’s largest vehicle manufacturing plant in the world, with an annual output of over 382,400 cars (2017). The plant has an energy demand of over 510 GWh a year (2017), most of which comes from the use of natural gas for cogeneration (40.95%) and for the use of boilers, furnaces and direct combustion in painting booths (24.05%). The remaining energy consumption comes from grid-electricity (35%).

Energy management is one of OPEL ESPAÑA’s main priorities, reflected by the fact that they were one of the first companies in Spain to implement ISO 50001

As part of its environmental and energy policy, OPEL ESPAÑA implemented ISO 50001 in 2012. This has contributed to improve the company’s competitiveness and reduce its environmental impact. The main motivations for Opel to implement this standard were the following:

  • Optimize and integrate ISO 50001 in the existing EMAS II and ISO 14001 management systems (Energy management processes were already in place through ISO 14001. However, the implementation of ISO 50001 enabled OPEL España to reinforce its focus on energy management and its homogenization as the norm has been designed specifically for that purpose)
  • Improve the methodology to establish Key Performance Indicators
  • Establish more aggressive consumption saving objectives
  • Intensify the level of monitoring and implementation of corrective plans
  • Increase awareness of good behavioural practices in environmental and energy conservation

As a result of the process, kick-started through the adoption of the standard, an energy efficiency program that included the following measures was defined:

  • Installation of high-level air compressors with high variable capacity
  • Change from pneumatic to electric pumps
  • Installation of a more efficient lighting system
  • Aggressive plan to decrease consumption in non-productive periods
  • Heat recovery in furnaces and repair booths and in cogeneration processes
  • Monthly energy audits
  • Creation of energy committees through which OPEL ESPAÑA trains and encourages its employees to maintain and improve energy efficiency in the plant (The committees were formed with the aim of involving employees in the development of the plant’s energy policy)

The total budget for these measures exceeded 4 million euros, 75% of which was spent in the first 4 years following the implementation of the norm. The estimated payback period for the energy efficiency program as a whole is around 3 years.

“The implementation of the norm has allowed us to consolidate and improve our previous energy management system, speeding up the identification and implementation of energy saving measures. As a result, we have produced immediate monetary savings and fulfilled the demanding goals of our environmental protection policy.”

Ramiro Martínez, Water and Energy Manager

OPEL ESPAÑA, Figueruelas, Zaragoza
OPEL ESPAÑA Zaragoza production center is OPEL’s largest vehicle manufacturing plant in the world. The successful implementation of ISO 50001 improved the productivity and management of its facilities.

Since the implementation of ISO 50001 in 2012, CO2 emissions have been reduced by 21% and energy consumption has decreased between 4-6% annually

Thanks to the implementation of ISO 50001 in 2012, OPEL ESPAÑA has achieved important savings and benefits in its Figueruelas Plant, evidencing the positive effects of the implementation of energy efficiency measures:

  • CO2 emissions have been reduced by 21%, or 20,000 ton/year
  • Annual savings of 4-6% in energy consumption
  • Annual natural gas savings of up to 15% during manufacturing periods, and nearly 20% in periods without production (compared to previous non-productive periods)
  • Improved and more precise consumption information
  • Greater awareness and environmental responsibility by employees through their involvement in the above-mentioned committees

All these savings have translated to significant monetary savings for the plant.

The success attained by a globally renowned brand such as Opel ESPAÑA in its implementation of an energy management system compliant with ISO 50001 is a clear example of the complementarity between monetary incentives and environmental consciousness and commitment.

COGEN Europe’s vision 2050

“Combining heat and power is essential for the future energy system.”

COGEN Europe, the European association for the promotion of cogeneration, recently unveiled its new vision that positions cogeneration as the backbone of Europe’s energy system by bringing together electricity, heat and gas networks, and integrating and using renewables efficiently.

“COGEN Europe’s vision addresses the needs of the changing energy system in Europe, which is becoming increasingly low carbon, competitive, smart and local,” explains COGEN Europe Managing Director Hans Korteweg. “We envisage a resilient, decentralised, carbon neutral European energy system by 2050 with cogeneration as its backbone.”

This will result in a variety of benefits such as reduced energy consumption and the associated emission reductions, lower energy bills for citizens, and boosted industrial competitiveness. At the same time, cogeneration will lead to the increased integration of renewable energy, such as variable wind and solar power, as well as dispatchable sources like biomass, biogas and hydrogen, maximising their efficient use and value in the economy.

Moreover, COGEN Europe believes that by as early as 2030, cogeneration could provide 20% of Europe’s electricity requirements and 25% of its heat needs, contributing up to 23% of the EU’s CO2 reduction target and 18% of its energy efficiency target. 90 million European households already receive their energy supply from district heating using cogeneration, and 100,000 SMEs use cogeneration today.

“By 2050, we would like to see a doubling of cogeneration capacity in the EU energy mix by ensuring that cogeneration is prioritised for all thermally generated electricity and heat,” adds Korteweg.

DecarbEurope values

During its May progress meeting, the DecarbEurope partners discussed the following values for the initiative:

  • Decarbonization: we pursue solutions that provide a sizeable contribution and that are scalable to provide rapid and deep carbon savings. For this, we need policy stability, a long-term perspective and strict planning to achieve energy & climate objectives by 2050.
  • Cost-effectiveness: we want solutions that are cost-effective, that compete in the market on merit. Minimum life-cycle costing should guide policy design. All cost-effective measures need to be pursued.
  • Circularity: in the transition from a fossil fuel-based to a more capital-intensive energy system, we want products and systems to be durable, easy to repair and highly recyclable.
  • Sector coupling: we believe in integrated energy systems and the use of digital solutions. We need a system approach combining renewables and energy efficiency with energy flexibility.
  • Consumer engagement: we believe in full access to energy markets, green power purchase agreements (PPAs), guarantees of origin, long-term agreements and peer-to-peer energy transactions.