A medieval castle powered by renewable energy

15th December 2023

Good practices

A medieval castle powered by renewable energy

La Pobla de Lillet Castle, Berguedà

A fortress dating back to 1297 covered with solar panels... This innovative combination has transported La Pobla de Lillet Castle in Berguedà from its medieval past to the renewable energy world of the 21st century. A very special rural house that stemmed from the personal initiative of Montse and Álvaro, who have been able to revive these walls with so much history in a sustainable way while supporting local development. In addition to offering spa and show-cooking services, they promote environmentally friendly measures to make visitors aware of the surrounding region.

The jewel in the castle’s crown is the spectacular 22-square-metre solar thermal field on the roof that provides the building with hot water. This hot water is used for both radiators and the jacuzzis used by visitors. Moreover, Montse and Álvaro have implemented a home automation system which allows for energy management.

Each room in the fortress is divided into zones and has its own thermostat. This technology provides real-time information and allows them to efficiently manage the captured energy directly from their mobile phones. This way, they don't waste any of the energy they generate.

In such a large space, any help is appreciated. If sensors detect that a room is cold, it might be as simple as a window left open or an issue with the radiators.

Selective intervention in a listed building

Incorporating these installations into La Pobla de Lillet Castle was not easy. The building is a listed cultural heritage site, which obliged them to respect the architectural elements found in it. A cultural asset of considerable magnitude that may not be apparent from the outside; a stone environment where the blocks crafted by skilled stonemasons are everywhere.

Despite the challenges posed by a building with such a rich history, they were able to see that the fortress was a rough diamond. And after all the various uses it had undergone over time, passing through very diverse hands, they decided to return it to its original appearance, through a truly selective renovation.

The only significant intervention they carried out was the construction of a roof, but with the rest of the elements, they remained faithful to their original uses. An example is the enormous 60-centimetre-thick walls that were simply restored, leaving them practically in their original state. In fact, in terms of energy, these walls helped retain heat. The building itself inspired them to be more efficient.

The castle also had its own peculiarities they had to adapt to. Its immense size makes it a giant in terms of temperature management. It is challenging to heat, and it does so very slowly, but once it gains thermal inertia, it can provide a warmth that lasts for hours.

A heritage recovery that has been done conscientiously and is imprinted in the company's DNA. Which means they have launched other initiatives that promote sustainability too.

Currently, all the other electrical power they use comes from a cooperative specialised in renewable energies. A comprehensive waste management system and collaboration with local producers are additional examples of initiatives that have been implemented with the support of the Destination Barcelona Biosphere Commitment to Sustainable Tourism programme. Travellers value and reward this commitment with their loyalty.

Obviously, managing a castle entails an extra effort, a daily maintenance procedure in addition to the countless tasks involved in rural accommodation. But it is the building itself that gives character to this enterprise and what makes it unique. The building and all its history which they want to safeguard for the future.

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