El Hierro: greenest island in the world

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It actually began with that desalination, says mr. Quintero, director of the water supply in El Hierro.
We have just a little fresh water on the island. The construction of banana plantations in the eighties made the scarcity urgent.

This Spanish volcano island wants to be the first climate neutral island of the world.

This island is a Green Energie example for the world.

How do we stop global warming? For years, countries are disputing about carbon emissions and who must pay for that. El Hierro, a small Spanish island in front of the African coast, decided to go for it. In five years, the island wants to be 100% climate neutral.

Example for the world

Only a few people live on El Hierro. The island isn’t a touristic island. Only a few visitors arrive each year, loving volcanos, the rest and peace on the island. The island wants to be an example for the world.

The center of the plan is the Gorona del Viento. A new electricity plant just outside the capital Villa de Valverde. A hybrid power plant that provides constant electricity because of the clever combination of wind and hydro power.

Wind, water and volcano

The public-private power station generates most of the power for the 6,000 inhabitants and three desalination plants of El Hierro. In addition to wind and water, an old volcano crater is playing an important role in the energy supply.

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Windmills will supply electricity to El Hierro’s residents and desalination plants, and the surplus power will be used to pump water up into the crater of a sealed-off, long-extinct volcano.

How does it work?

  • Five windmills on the mountain slopes outside Valverde, are generating electricity through the Aliseo: a stiff  wind that almost constantly blows from the northeast
  • With the electricity that customers do not need directly, water is pumped up from a lower basin to a reservoir in a volcanic crater at 700 meters altitude
  • When the wind drops, the water can be led down passing four turbines, which immediately are start generating electricity
  • This form of energy storage, wherein the water tank serves as a battery, is not new. But in combination with wind energy it is
  • A special feature of this hybrid plant is that wind power is complementary to hydropower, instead of vice versa
  • Electricity production can switch from wind to water seamlessly
    or as a backup, switch to diesel
  • Once the wind lies down, smart sensors and intelligent software ensure that the system will switch within five seconds. Residents do not even notice it

We can meet the needs of our island, says the president of the island government Gonzalez.

The local demand for electricity is 6 to 7 megawatts. We will soon produce 11.3 megawatts, so we will have more than enough power.

Thanks to the reservoirs, we will have a power storage capacity of four days. It is exceptioneel being four days without wind on this island.

Advantages

The new power plant has great advantages. The eternal but capricious winds of El Hierro are converted into stable renewable energy. No longer, the island will be dependent on expensive, polluting diesel, which is now transported by ships to the island.

At night the renewables can be used for the three power draining desalination plants on the island.

It actually began with that desalination, says mr. Quintero, director of the water supply in El Hierro.
We have just a little fresh water on the island. The construction of banana plantations in the eighties made the scarcity urgent.

In the late nineties, the situation improved when the large-scale seawater desalination became profitable. But the plants need 20% of the electricity in El Hierro.

Unesco

While other Canary Islands chose to focus on mass tourism, El Hierro opted for development through protection of natural and cultural heritage. Two-thirds of El Hierro is protected by law. In 2000, the island was declared an Unesco Biosphere Reserve.

The new power plant is fully in line our island vision. We focus on organic agriculture, clean energy and ecotourism. For El Hierro there is only one way forward: circular!
By 2020, all cars will be electric on the island.

Water from wind

Experts from all around the world are visiting the island. Especially islands are suffering from expensive energy imports and water shortages. From Crete to Indonesia. We are making fresh water from wind. That is why experts want to have a view themselves.

From wind, to electricity, to water, to life: an island needs an integral approach for water and energy. Ten years from now, the whole world will be equipped like this.

The 7 Canary Islands of Spain

The main islands are (from largest to smallest)Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro. The archipelago also includes a number of islands and islets: La Graciosa, Alegranza, Isla de Lobos, Montaña Clara, Roque del Oeste and Roque del Este.

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