The possibilities of renewable energy are on display as El Hierro, the smallest of Spain’s Canary Islands, is set to become the world’s first land mass to be fully energy self-sufficient, when an 11.5 megawatt wind farm goes online late next month.
El Hierro, with a population of a little over 10,000, already has a water turbine that generates electricity, so it will be the first island to secure a steady supply of electricity by combining wind and water power, according to an article in the U.K.’s Daily Mail. The island has no connection to any outside electricity network.
The turbines will generate enough power to meet residential demand, as well as power the island's water desalination plants. Surplus power from the wind turbines will be used to pump fresh water from a reservoir near the harbor to a larger one at a volcanic crater located approximately 2,300 feet above sea level. And when there is little or no wind, the water will be channeled down to the lower reservoir through turbines to generate electricity.
“This system guarantees us a supply of electricity,” said Juan Manuel Quintero, director of the $110 million Gorona del Viento wind power plant, who was quoted in the Daily Mail article.
Island authorities own 60 percent of the plant, with 30 percent held by Spanish energy company Endesa and 10 percent by a local technology institute. Quintero estimated that revenue from the plant will increase the island’s budget by about $1.4 million to $4.2 million a year. “These are revenues that can go to the local residents, to subsidize water prices, infrastructure, social policies,” he told the Daily Mail.
El Hierro’s power plan will cut 18,700 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year and eliminate its annual consumption of 40,000 barrels of oil.
The island is cited as a pioneering project by IRENA, the international organization for renewable energy. And Alain Gioda, a climate historian at France IRD science research institute told AFP: “The true novelty of El Hierro is that technicians have managed, without being connected to any national network, to guarantee a stable production of electricity that comes 100 percent from renewable energy, overcoming the intermittent nature of the wind.”
It can be done: the renewable energy future is happening right now. El Hierro's wind power plant has interest from other islands, including officials from Aruba, Hawaii, Samso in Denmark, Oki in Japan, and Indonesia.
Image: La Gorona del viento by Pau Gómez via Flickr