EDP Art Reef

EDP and Vhils transform parts from deactivated power plants into the first underwater exhibition of the Portuguese coast

Thursday 09, March 2023

EDP Art Reef is an artistic intervention by Alexandre Farto aka Vhils on parts from coal and fuel power plants that EDP deactivated to make way for renewable projects. Some of the most emblematic parts can be seen by the public until April 15 at EDP's headquarters, before being submerged.

Some of the pieces of art created by Alexandre Farto that will be submerged in the first underwater exhibition in the Portuguese maritime territory are now available for the public to visit. Until April 15, visitors will be able to see firsthand the intervention by the artist on parts from former EDP thermoelectric power plants, which will now have a new life at the bottom of the ocean. The pre-exhibition is available at the company's headquarters, in Lisbon, and is freely accessible.

Whitin its commitment to be 100% green by 2030 and to stop producing energy from fossil fuels, EDP challenged Vhils to develop an artistic project with parts that in the past were used to produce electricity. Now that these plants are being decommissioned to make way for renewable energy projects and innovation hubs, these parts will also have a new life.

Over the past three years, Vhils Studio and more than 200 people from various teams have been involved in visiting the decommissioned plants, creating the creative concept for EDP Art Reef, choosing materials and intervening on them. The end result will be an underwater exhibition off the coast of Albufeira, with unique and large-scale pieces that will change over time due to the influence of the elements.

The works were designed to generate a new artificial reef and they will be submerged at a depth of about 12 metres, and therefore can only be visited through the practice of qualified diving. Thus, a visit to the pre-exhibition at EDP's headquarters allows anyone to experience first-hand part of this work.

“The idea of submerging art installations composed of parts from disassembled thermoelectrical power plants in the ocean has a strong metaphoric weight regarding engaging on the need for responsible use of resources and highlights the environmental issues that require urgent answer and are the result of human activity on the planet. This project seeks to promote the development of innovative ways to create systems that establish a harmonious relationship with nature. Transforming these materials into an ecosystem conducive to the growth of coral reefs and to sheltering various forms of marine fauna and flora is an example of this approach, and I hope it will be the first of many steps towards an increasingly conscious and sustainable future", declares Alexandre Farto aka Vhils.

EDP Art Reef seeks to confront the public with the consequences of human actions, with the growing instability of the aquatic environment, the effects of climate change and the importance of reversing the impact on the planet. 

"At EDP, we believe that this is the moment to set in stone that we are committed to the future of the next generations. It has never been more important to switch from fossil fuels to renewable sources, promote the energy transition and ensure that it is done in a fair and inclusive way. EDP Art Reef, a pioneering project created by a great name in contemporary art, is a tribute to the past of the electricity sector and our country, but it is also a commitment to the future of all of us", highlights Vera Pinto Pereira, EDP executive director.

EDP Art Reef was approved by the competent authorities, who concluded that it will not have a negative impact on the ecosystem, representing an environmental asset that will contribute positively to the development of the local ecosystem. On the recommendation of marine biologists who provide technical support to the project, all pieces were designed to allow the passage of local fauna, also, live coral rescued and preserved in captivity, will be implanted at their base. This site will be monitored over the next few years, being available for scientific and environmental study, in addition to its cultural and awareness aspects.

This will also be a project that will transform the Algarve region into an important cultural recreational diving destination. The project was therefore developed with the important support of the Municipality of Albufeira, Turismo de Portugal, CCMar (University of the Algarve), among others, and validated by the General Directorate of Natural Resources and the Portuguese Environment Agency, as well as other competent entities. In turn, the sinking of the exhibition is licensed by the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests and the National Maritime Authority.


Description of the pieces on display at EDP's headquarters:



This piece represents the doorway to the exhibition, its symbolism accentuated by its position. On passing through the centre of the mill, the visitor can observe through each of its openings a different composition relating to the three Atlantic continents. It has been placed geographically to point to the continents. The artistic intervention in these openings involves hollow metal elements, consisting of geometrical patterns and contemporary faces of their inhabitants. This work represents the period when humanity simply looked out across the sea, an impassable barrier that aroused curiosity and, simultaneously, fear of the unknown. This iron sculpture, the tallest in the exhibition, results from re-purposing the body of the coal mill from the decommissioned thermoelectric power plant, which after being stripped and cleaned of any contaminants was worked by the artist Vhils and will present the three faces carved in iron. The cylindrical structure is 5.30 meters high and 4.77 meters in diameter and will sit on a concrete base.



An old water tank from the Carregado Power Plant's cooling system will be converted into a canvas for the representation of a city, the highest example of technological, economic, cultural and social development. It also represents how humanity lives today, “imprisoned” in urban centres and disconnected from the natural world. It consists of a sculpture made from an iron tank 2.80 m high, 3 m wide, 4.20 m long and a concrete footing 4.20 m wide and 3 m long.


Partners and entities involved in EDP Art Reef:Ambigroup, National Maritime Authority, AMOP Synergies, Portuguese Environment Agency, Albufeira Municipality, Lisbon Municipality, Marine Sciences Centre of the University of Algarve, General Directorate of Natural Resources, Safety and Maritime Services, Easydivers, Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests, Interserv, Lindo Serviços, LS Engenharia Geográfica, Marina de Albufeira, Mota-Engil, Navalrocha, Pinguim Sub, PSP Lisbon – Traffic Division, Stagetec, Tiago Miguel Fraga - Maritime Archaeology, Transgrua, Turismo de Portugal, Zilmo.