Clean Energy To Power An Entire Island

The small island of El Hierro – iron in Spanish – is located in the Canary Islands 1,500 miles off the coast of Spain. Aside from being a main tourist attraction, El Hierro will also reportedly soon become the world’s first island to run off of 100 percent renewable energy.

The renewable energy consists of an 11.5 MW wind farm and 11.3 MW hydroelectric plant that will generate around 80 percent of the island’s needs, with the remaining 20 percent produced via solar thermal collectors and grid-connected photovoltaics. Producing local energy reportedly will offset 18,200 tons of CO2 alone due to cutting out oil transport to this remote location.

El Hierro

image via ABB

The project will utilize ABB‘s power and automation solution, which will electrify and control the hydroelectric plants and integrate the power generated from the wind and hydropower turbines to the standard island grid. ABB’s process, the company said, will “maintain stable plant frequency and voltage by sharing active and reactive power demand in the generators and tie-lines,” which allows the plants to continue operating despite large margins in power fluctuation. The entire renewable energy grid will also be controlled by an ABB distributed control system, which will monitor the four hydropower turbines, pumped storage process, the interconnection substation and communicate with the new wind farm.

By communicating with the wind farm, ABB said, its control solution “will automatically start releasing water from the upper reservoir to generate power at the hydroelectric plant whenever the wind power generated is insufficient to meet demand. Conversely, excess wind power will be used to pump water to the upper reservoir, for use when wind power is low.”

Plans call for this ambitious project to be completed by the end of this year. It will cost $87 million and reportedly provide electricity for the island’s entire 11,000 inhabitants.

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1 Comment

  • Reply February 20, 2014


    Let’s run the numbers on this fantasy island. $87 million divided by 11,000 residents equals $7,900 per person installation cost. The hydro provides energy storage, not additional power. All four renewable technologies together provide about 14.4 MW of nameplate capacity which assuming a super favorable 40% capacity factor and 80% roundtrip efficiency with the hydro, is 4.6 MW of power. Divided by 11,000 residents, this is 409 watt/person compared to the 1,300 watt/person of electricity consumed by the Average American and 332 watt/person by the average Chinese. However, people in both of these nations consume much more energy in non-electricity form for transportation, space heating, water heating, and cooking. The average total power demand (electricity and non-electricity) for an American is 10,000 watts. However this article claims the island is 100% renewable so this electricity is the only energy source and the residents of El Hierro must get by on only 1/24th the energy of Americans. My bet is the article is completely wrong and the residents will continue to import the majority of their energy in the form of petroleum for transportation, cooking, heating, and other energy services; and that only their very modest electricity needs will be covered by this very expensive system with a lifespan of 20-30 years if they are lucky (9% of US wind turbines installed since 2001 are already non-functional). This is the same fantasy that Lovins and RMI are trying to sell about Tokelau. Show us the data.

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