Meet El Hierro…The first island powered 100% by wind!

11 Jul

Ahhh the Canary Islands the place of sun and sand…and the first place of 100% wind power! The smallest of the Canary Islands ‘El Hierro’ has become the first Island in the world to be 100% wind-powered. The island is owned by Spain and is located off the coast of Africa. They have built five wind turbines on the North Eastern tip of the Island for a capacity of 11.5 megawatts. The population of El Hierro is 10,162 as of 2003, therefore the 11.5 megawatts would be enough for all the people who live there.

According to the Ministry for Industry, Tourism and Commerce, El Hierro has become the first island in the world to be energy self-sufficient. They have achieved this through a €54 million project combining a greater than 11 megawatt wind farm and two hydroelectric projects.

They have even implemented a back-up plan for when the wind isn’t blowing! Back-up power will be provided from pumped water storage. 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.

In terms of their carbon footprint, the wind farm and pumped water storage will slash their CO2 emissions by around 18,700 tonnes per year. The project will also eliminate the islands annual consumption of 40,000 barrels of oil. This being said, as a back-up precaution El Hierro will maintain its fuel oil power station. Makes sense I guess?

The closed-loop hybrid wind/hydro system was tested at the end of 2013, and they expect to save approximately £2.5M per year (calculated with January 2011 oil prices).

Hopefully other island nations take encouragement from El Hierro. Many of the surrounding islands burn oil to produce their electricity. The alternative wind, hydro and solar options and much cleaner and potentially make fuel cost free after the initial set up costs.

As of May 2014, the island has become completely self-sufficient for electrical energy. Well done El Hierro!

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