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El Hierro goes 100% renewable

Turbines bring Spanish island a step closer to energy security
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The smallest of the Canary Islands, El Hierro, has reportedly met 100% of its energy needs with renewables.

Earlier this month, the Gorona del Viento plant – which cost €82 million (£58.2m) and combines wind and hydro power – provided enough green energy (around 6MW) to meet the demand of 10,000 locals for four hours.

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Harnessing the wind

El Hierro island, which was made a world biosphere reserve in 2000, rises 1,500 metres from the waters of the Atlantic ocean and has steep hillsides that are permanently beaten by the wind. It has a surface of 278 km2 and a population of 10,700 inhabitants.

Excess power will be used to pump water up into the crater of an inactive volcano, where it will be collected in a reservoir. When demand is high or there’s not enough wind, the water will be released to drive turbines and create hydro-electric energy.

‘It is a fact of utmost importance for both islanders and for the Canary Islands, Europe and the world: demonstrate that it is possible to achieve 100% clean sources in an isolated system, promote renewable and stop consuming fossil fuels.’

Belén Allende, president of the Cabildo de El Hierro

Ditching diesel

The island was previously consuming 6,000 tonnes of diesel per year – equal to 40,000 barrels of oil – which needed to be imported by boat.

The yearly emission of 18,700 tonnes of CO2 will now be avoided – about as much as could be fixed by a forest the size of 20,000 football pitches.

‘The plant, which just completed its first month of commercial operation after the initial trial period, is an example of technological innovation… Today [is] the day that, for the first time, diesel engines have been stopped to give way to hydro-wind power.’

Juan Pedro Sánchez, Gorona del Viento adviser

Delay is ‘no longer justified’

On top of the carbon savings the new renewable energy system will save the island over €1.8 million euros per year.

The revenue will be used to help cement the island’s transition to energy self-sufficiency, by funding initiatives including a switch to electric vehicles.

‘We are extremely satisfied and we know that this example will continue seeping into the world, that renewables are the future. We call on governments to look at projects like El Hierro’s and achieve the objectives of a radical shift to the massive penetration of renewables, the delay of which is no longer justified.’

Belén Allende, president of the Cabildo de El Hierro

The €82 million project received a €35 million grant from the Spanish government. 60% is owned by the island’s government, 30% by the Spanish utility company Endesa and 10% by the Canary Islands Institute of Technology.

Click here to find out more about Gorona del Viento El Hierro.

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