The smallest and least known of Spain’s Canary Islands, El Hierro, is making a splash by becoming the first island in the world fully energy selfsufficient through combined water and wind power. A wind farm opening at the end of June will turn into electricity the gusts that rake the steep cliffs and green mountains of the volcanic island off the Atlantic coast of Africa.
Its five turbines installed at the northeastern tip of El Hierro near the capital Valverde will have a total output of 11.5 megawatts – more than enough power to meet the demand of the island’s roughly 10,000 residents. Although other islands around the world are powered by solar or wind energy, experts say El Hierro is the first to secure a constant supply of electricity by combining wind and water power and with no connection to any outside electricity network.
Surplus power from the wind turbines will be used to pump fresh water from a reservoir near the harbour to a larger one at volcanic crater located about 700 metres above sea level. When there is little or no wind, the water will be channelled down to the lower reservoir through turbines to generate electricity in turn.
“This system guarantees us a supply of electricity,” said the director of the Gorona del Viento wind power plant, Juan Manuel Quintero who is supervising final tests before the plant starts functioning in a few weeks. The plant will account for 50% of the island’s electricity demand when it is officially inaugurated at the end of June.