The Easternmost of the Canary Islands is launching an innovative wind-power system that will make the island fully energy self-sufficient.
El Hierro, located some 750 miles from the Spanish mainland, is a volcanic island with little to none access to fresh water, coal or fossil fuels; for almost three decades, the 10k islanders living in El Hierro have relied on diesel fuel to power their generators.
This is why for several years, the island has been thinking about how to move away from fossil fuels, and build a hydro-eolic plant, to produce energy out of wind, and ocean water.
“At first, it was simply an issue of becoming more self-sufficient,” said Tomás Padrón, president of the Island Council “we were completely dependent on outside deliveries and could be cut off at a moment’s notice. But then with the global-energy crisis, and climate change, and everything else that’s happened, we’ve realized it has a lot more value.”
Five windmills constructed on the northeast side of the island will power a pumping station, which pumps water from a reservoir on the lower side of the island, to a much larger one burrowed in one of El Hierro’s volcanic craters.
When the wind is not blowing, the top reservoir will release water onto the lower reservoir, and the pressure of that falling water, will power six hydraulic turbines, so in any kind of weather, the plant will be expected to provide the island with 48 GW/h (gigawatt hours) of energy, enabling the island to dsave a yearly 6,000 tons of diesel.
This project alone will enable the island to meet 100% of its energy needs by 2015, but well before that date, El Hierro will have cemented several other sustainability projects; the island is largely agricultural, and a leader in converting to organic farming, as well as creating “biodigesting” projects, which aims to convert sewage into methane and fertilizers. The island is also planning to make most of their vehicles electric (powered by excess energy from the plant).
“The whole system will be integrated,” says Javier Morales, El Hierro’s councilman for sustainability. “It’s beyond green. When the power plant and the car system interact, it will be like galaxies colliding.”