El Hierro to be first island totally powered by clean energy

30 Apr 2014

The installation of the first of the five wind turbines on El Hierro's north-west point. Image via Wikimedia Commons

The island of El Hierro, part of the Canary Islands, is set to become the first island in the world to be entirely powered by solar and wind energy, making it entirely self-sufficient.

According to Discovery News, the smallest of the Canary Islands with a population of just under 10,000 will enter the record books when a new wind farm is opened this June, which will see five turbines installed at the island’s north-west point with an output of 11.5MW.

While other islands across the world can claim to be totally powered by renewable energy, El Hierro differs itself because it is the only island so far to have a continuous energy stream from its wind and solar-energy turbines with no connection to its island neighbours or the African mainland.

While the local population of the small island will have more than enough energy in their homes powered by the renewable sources, the excess energy will be essential to its desalination process, which pumps water from a reservoir adjacent to its main harbour to a volcanic crater 700 metres above used to store its fresh water.

The environmental statistics will be seen in the following months after the wind turbines are installed, as the island will be reducing its carbon output by 18,700 tonnes per year along with ending its import of 40,000 barrels of oil each year.

Speaking to Discovery, the president of island’s local council Alpidio Armas said the island is proud to be a ‘laboratory’ for renewable self-sufficiency. “It is a project which is considered at the world level as a pioneer and it is one of the most important in the production of renewable energy.”

El Hierro is looking to continue its clean-energy drive, by having all of its 6,000 vehicles be electrically powered by 2020. A joint agreement has been signed between Renault and Nissan to provide the islands with the infrastructure and vehicles to support the islands’ intentions.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic