El Hierro, the smallest of Canary Islands, is set to become the world’s first islands to be powered entirely by wind and water. A wind farm from June is now on course to use the island’s steep cliffs and mountains to harvest gusts of wind off the Atlantic coast of Africa. Five turbines installed at the northeastern tip of El Hierro will have a total output of 11.5 megawatts that would be more than enough to meet the energy needs of the island’s approximately 10,000 residents and its water desalination plants.
Surplus power from the wind turbines would be used to pump fresh water from a reservoir near the harbour to a larger one located about 700 metres (2,300 feet) above sea level. When there is little or no wind, the water would be channeled down to the lower reservoir through turbines to generate electricity in turn.
“This system guarantees us a supply of electricity,” Juan Manuel Quintero, director of the Gorona del Viento wind power plant, was quoted as saying. The plant will initially account for 50 percent of the island’s electricity demand, a figure that is set to go up to 100 percent over the following months.
The scheme will cut carbon dioxide emissions by 18,700 tonnes per year and eliminate the island’s annual consumption of 40,000 barrels of oil, Discovery News reported. The island is cited as a pioneering project by IRENA, the international organisation for renewable energy, and other experts.