The Spanish island of El Hierro, about 1,500 kilometers off the Spanish coast, is home to about 11,000 people. The project’s goal is to provide inhabitants with all the energy they need through a combination of wind energy, pumped water-storage power and solar-thermal and photovoltaic systems. The island is the smallest and most remote of the Canary Islands.
El Hierro currently generates much of the electricity it needs with diesel fuel shipped in by oil tankers. That power source generates some 18,200 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.
The renewable energy project will remake the island’s electricity infrastructure with the addition of an 11.5-megawatt wind farm and an 11.3-megawatt hydroelectric plant, along with solar thermal collectors and grid-connected solar panels. Power and automation technology company ABB is helping to lead the project by providing technology to electrify and control the hydro-power plant and integrate energy from renewable sources into the island’s grid. The main contractor for the project, set to be completed sometime in 2011, is Elecnor.
The project will be designed to enable the various energy sources to complement one another. When wind power is low, for example, ABB’s control systems will automatically release water from the upper reservoir at the hydroelectric plant to begin generating energy. And when wind-energy production is higher than demand, the excess will be used to pump water into the upper reservoir of the hydro-power plant for later use.
The El Hierro project has already inspired one similar development: a hydro-wind installation being built on the Greek island of Icaria.