Episode#47 Salinas: Innovation And Sustainability In "A Smart Village"

GuestsPablo Rodriguez, the Innovation Agent of the town of Salinas, Spain

Date of recording: 21 September 2023


Find transcript here


Summaries of Key Takeaways:  

  • Commitment to Innovation: Salinas focuses on innovation across various sectors, including tourism and green energy, learning from network collaborations. 
  • Sustainability Initiatives: The town has a history of pioneering in green energies, like renting out warehouse roofs for solar installations, benefiting both the town's finances and its sustainability goals. 
  • Smart Village Vision: Aiming to transform into a smart village, Salinas integrates technology for improved living standards and focuses on innovative projects like creating bioconstruction materials from recycled materials. 
  • Local Energy Community: Initiating a local energy community to offer cheaper energy through collective solar panel installations, promoting sustainability and community involvement. 
  • Challenges and Opportunities: Facing challenges such as funding and competition with larger cities, Salinas remains positive, seeking to enhance livability and sustainability through political will and community engagement. 


“To you, what is a Smart City?”

Pablo Rodriguez: “Well, I think that a smart village would be a place where everyone who lives there takes profit of the technology for a better living. That could be a definition. Not definitely definition, but this is why we ask, right?” 



  • To innovate effectively, you must have a holistic perspective

“Innovation is to make things different or think about things differently. And for that you must have a very holistic view of things and you must learn from different disciplines. You cannot retrict yourself to only one job or only one way of seeing things. Because when does innovation happen? When you can summarize or take things from one discipline and apply it to another discipline. Like, how is it done in this sector? What can I take from that sector and apply to tourism, for example? That's innovation. Also you can innovate in the processes, in the products, or in ways of doing things. [...] And you have to be open minded to new things or at least hearing about what's happening or what others think about some topics. And that gives you new perspectives so that you can change your way of thinking and make innovation happen.”

  • Becoming a Smart place is a dynamic process of innovation and adaptation

"Our goal is to become a Smart Village. We know about Smart Cities, but we want to be - and I think we already are - a Smart Village. And we have a history of being pioneers in green energies. For more than 15 years we have rented roofs of warehouses to companies which in that time put solar installations on them and we get a percentage of the profits. And that's a benefit for the town because that's an income for us. That was one of the first things that we did. But we also have been doing some innovative projects like creating bioconstruction materials, made from just recycling materials. And that's a point that we are going to reinforce in the future because of the interest of the industries. We have also worked on mobility, we have put several charging points, we have been putting more and also well, two years ago we drilled a new water well and this is all powered by an off-grid solar system. And that is going to make us independent from other municipalities for the water because we didn't have enough and we had to take this water from other municipalities."

  • The scale of a project can impact the level of controversy and community response

"If the projects are beneficial to the town, then you will gain the people's support. [...] For big projects, there is always some level of controversy, but it doesn't depend on the town council, because if solar plants are for example installed on private lands, and all the permits are emitted from the Ministry or the regional government, and then the municipality can only take appointments and make recommendations, like "okay maybe it would be better this way." But if it's a private project or the law, then we don't have much room to do anything. But with smaller local initiatives, such as the solar panels on the roofs of our warehouses, there aren't many problems."

  • Cities should test the feasibility and effectiveness of new ideas with pilot projects

“We are now diving into a very interesting project which has to do with hydrogen. We want our water treatment installation to recover water from wastewater and reuse it to be drinkable by first converting it to hydrogen, and then using this hydrogen to create energy. And then you have this waste from the burning process, which is water. And this water can be reused, it has been filtered. And we can mix this filtered water with our hard water. And if it works, we are going to make another project, thinking about new things in the industrial area with the hydrogen. But we want to test first this pilot project and then scale it up.”