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Island of El Hierro

Photo credit: Waiheke Forever

100% Renewable Energy Goal:

100% Local Renewable Electricity


Island of El Hierro


The Spanish island of El Hierro in the Canaries aims to powered by 100 percent renewable electricity sources by the end of 2014, ending the need for expensive oil imports. Specifically, the island will be powered by an 11.5 MW wind farm - called Gorona del Viento - consisting of 5 turbines and a 11.3 MW hydroelectric plant that will generate around 80 percent of the island’s needs, with the remaining 20 percent produced via solar thermal collectors and photovoltaics.

The hybrid wind/pumped hydro storage system will store surplus wind power by pumping water up 700 meters (approximately 2,300 feet) to fill the crater of an extinct volcano. When winds are calm or when demand exceeds supply, water will be released from the crater to generate 11.3 MW of electricity, filling an artificial basin created at the bottom of the extinct volcano. Water in the lower basin is then pumped back up again to the upper reservoir when there is excess wind power.

Renewable sources will supply electricity for all the island's 11,000 residents,  seasonal tourists, and three water desalination plants. Producing local energy reportedly will annually offset 18,200 tonnes of CO2 and 6,000 tonnes of fossil fuels.

According to local government sources, the project cost is €65 million and supported by financial aid from the European Union, after lobbying by power conglomerate ABB. The economic impacts, however, are expected to be net positive fairly fast. Once the project is completed, electricity will be sold for approximately €9 million annually. The closed-loop hybrid wind/hydro system is expected to save approximately US$4M per year (calculated with January 2011 oil prices) typically spent on about 40,000 barrels of crude oil imported annually, and will make the island completely self sufficient.

The project has garnered international attention and is a model for other islands. In 2014, UNESCO's RENISLA Forum was held on El Hierro, where a declaration was made that 100% renewable energy is the only way forward. Next steps include a target of replacing the island's 6000 cars with electric vehicles by 2020.

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