The smallest and southernmost of Spain’s Canary Islands, El Hierro, and the island will use a mix of wind and hydropower to ensure a constant supply of energy and wean it of dirty diesel generators.
Next month, the island will open a new wind farm. With five turbines, it will provide 11.5 megawatts of power – enough to meet the demand of the entire population and the island’s desalinations plants.
Wind power will also be used to pump water into a reservoir in a volcanic crater about 2,300 feet above sea level.
When the wind isn’t blowing, hydropower will fill the void as the water is released and used to generate electricity – a process known as pump-storage hydroelectricity.
“This system guarantees us a supply of electricity,” said the director of the Gorona del Viento wind power plant, Juan Manuel Quintero.
With the $75 million project set to come online, El Hierro will no longer have to rely on costly and dirty diesel generators for electricity — although it will maintain an oil power station just in case. According to Phys.org, the island’s transition to renewable energy will cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20,600 tons per year and save the island from using 40,000 barrels of oil a year.
Other islands are taking advantage of renewable resources to become wind- and solar-powered, but El Hierro is believed to be the first to do so exclusively with wind and hydro power and without having any connection to an outside electricity grid.