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.