El Hierro – an island of only 269 km2 and around 10,000 inhabitants in the Canaries archipelago, an autonomous region of Spain and an EU outermost region situated in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa, is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The island hopes to become one of the first entirely energy self-sufficient islands in the world.
More than 10 years ago the island started to look for alternative renewable energy sources to replace the power station, which uses fuel and provides most of the island’s electricity. The exploitation of a single resource would render energy production uncertain. Therefore the island looked for a combination of different energy sources to make the complete self-sufficient energy system viable in the long-term.
With the approval of Plan de Sostenibilidad de El Hierro (El Hierro Sustainability Plan), the island started a complete reorganization of the island’s energy production concept. Most of the energy would come from a hydro-wind power station. A wind farm would produce the energy and a system of two connected water reservoirs would be the power storage battery (or accumulator) and would provide a supplementary source of energy. This wind-water system should produce up to 80% of the island’s energy requirements. The sun, through the solar farms, should provide the rest.
At present, the civil construction work is nearing completion. A wind farm and other mechanical components, hydraulic pumps and hydraulic turbines, are being installed and in the end of 2012 operational testing of the system will begin.
The whole island is a Biosphere Reserve and 59% of its territory is comprised of natural protected areas, but the spot where the project is developed is specifically located outside of them.
The Government of the Canary Islands, an IUCN Member, works on this project together with a number of other partners.
For more information:
Jorge Juan Bonnet Fernandez-Trujillo, Government of the Canary Islands
Gonzalo Piernavieja Izquierdo, ITC-Instituto Tecnológico de Canarias