El Hierro Goes Green with New Power Plant

Published on Friday, 27 June 2014

El Hierro, the smallest of the Canary Islands, became the world's first 100 percent renewable island on June 27, when it inaugurated a hydro-wind power plant that will be the island's new energy production system.

After €65million of investment and five years of work, Gorona del Viento, a company jointly-owned by the island's local council, Endesa and the Canary Islands government, has built a facility that way back in 1986 was part of an idea to make the island's energy supply totally green and sustainable.

The inauguration of the hydro-wind power plant has been called by many the most important day in the history of the island. The ceremony took place at the end of the Renisla 2014 conference, a forum for sharing of expertise and knowledge on renewable energy projects that was organised by the island's local council under the umbrella of UNESCO.

El Hierro becoming a totally renewable island makes it a global green energy pioneer. It has been calculated that about a thousand islands around the world could use the same supply model, which is based on a combination between hydro power and wind power. The facility has two water reservoirs separated by 682 metres, which have a combined capacity of more than 700,000 metres cubed of water and 11.3 megawatts, a 6MW pumping station and an 11.5MW wind farm. The existing diesel-powered 12.7MW thermoelectric power plant has not been decommissioned and has become a back-up system that can be used in case of emergencies.

The end of carbon dioxideemissions on the island means a huge 18,700 tonnes of C02 will no longer be produced, and the hydro-wind power system will also lead to a saving of the €1.8million spent to buy the 40,000 barrels of oil that powered the diesel facility. There is also agreement between Endesa, Renault-Nissan and the El Hierro City Council for the study of an Island-wide e-mobility system.  

El Hierro has realised its dream of achieving a sustainable ecosystem. The island, which was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2000, has actually become a global model of sustainable development in which technology, renewable energy and protection of the environment come together in a single project, one that is set to become a benchmark for the global energy market.