The best energy is energy which is not used

All for renewable energies, renewable energies for all. This is the mission of the new national R&D centre built with the support of ERDF funding, a stone’s throw from Pamplona.

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Examining the secrets of energy: solar simulator at CENER in Sarriguren. Examining the secrets of energy: solar simulator at CENER in Sarriguren.


Following the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, the EU defined the objective to be reached by 2010 in each of the member States, that at least 12% of energy demand should be produced from renewable energy (RE) sources. In Spain, renewable energies currently satisfy 7 or 8% of energy requirements. In 2000, the creation of the CENER-CIEMAT Foundation by the government of Navarre, the Spanish ministry for Education and Science and the Energy, Environment and Technological Research Centre, (CIEMAT, a national public body), formed part of this approach.

The prime location of the Navarre Innovation Park, in the brand new “ecocity” of Sarriguren a few miles from Pamplona, was chosen to house the National Renewable Energies Centre (CENER), built with the help of ERDF funding.

A reference in its field

With its bioclimatic architecture entirely designed to minimise energy consumption (60% of which is already provided by renewable sources, with the plan to increase this to 100%), the central CENER building is one of the international reference constructions in this area. With ultra-modern equipment including laboratories for the characterisation of thermal and photovoltaic solar panels, biomass analysis and testing, wind generator certification and an energy accumulation laboratory, it has everything it requires to conduct R&D activities related to renewable energies in five specific fields: wind power; solar energy (thermal and photovoltaic); biomass energy; bioclimatic architecture; electronics and power electronics and the use of hydrogen for energy storage.

A holistic approach

Begun in 2002, CENER’s activity aims on the one hand to boost the competitiveness of businesses in terms of RE, through applied research and technology transfer, service provision (consultancy, studies, etc.) and the establishment of specific projects for industrial clients. On the other hand, it aims generally to promote the development of REs by disseminating scientific and technical knowledge and supporting public institutions in the establishment of appropriate technical and legal provisions. The ultimate goal is to make the most efficient technologies accessible to society as a whole, based on the principle that, to cite CENER’s director, Juan Ormazábal: “the best energy is energy which is not used”.

Although the CENER-CIEMAT Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation, the Centre operates along the lines of a private company and aims to be self-supporting (already achieved for 50%) through effective management and financial income from projects conducted for external clients.


Apart from its impact locally on the economy of Navarre, in its 4 years of intensive activities, mobilising in April 2006 a staff of 120 people, most of whom are researchers, CENER has already acquired a solid reputation both nationally and internationally, with contracts in five continents.

By way of an example, an agreement signed in February 2006 between the government of Navarre and the department of Education and Science envisages the investment of 48.35 million euros on major CENER projects, such as the creation of a wind technologies development unit at Sangüesa, which currently has no equivalent anywhere in the world (including a testing station for 70m long blades), research into crystalline materials which could provide lower-cost alternatives to silicon in photovoltaic equipment and the development of thermal solar panels for solar refrigeration.

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