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El Hierro, an example of sustainability

The 100% renewable El Hierro project involves the application of a new energy model. The objective of this pioneering initiative worldwide is for the island to meet its energy needs solely with renewable energy. 

El Hierro wind turbines
El Hierro wind turbines

A defined area that features geological traits of particular relevance, rarity or beauty”.  This is how UNESCO defines the smallest, newest and farthest south of the Canary Islands. UNESCO has declared the island of El Hierro "a biosphere reserve and geo-park."

Today, the island has also become the first to live off its own100% renewable energy.

This is the result of the El Hierro 100% Renewable Project, managed by Gorona del Viento El Hierro S. A. and including the El Hierro Island Council (65.82%), Endesa (23.21%), the Canary Islands Institute of Technology (7.74%) and the Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands (3.23%).

El Hierro 100% Renewable is a ground-breaking challenge that applies a new energy model. It is one of Endesa’s landmark initiatives to contribute to sustainable development and help fight climate change.

Renewable energy is obtained from inexhaustible natural resources, such as wind, sunlight and heat (solar), or from the depths of the Earth (geothermal) or from the sea's waves (wave energy). At El Hierro, wind and hydraulic power are combined. To harness energy on this volcanic island, the Gorona del Viento wind-hydro power station was built and opened in 2014. 

El Hierro, 100% renewable

We have implemented the only initiative on Earth capable of self-supplying a population as large as that of El Hierro with the Gorona del Viento hydroelectric plant.

Wind farm

Able to supply electricity simultaneously straight to the grid and the pumping station.

It consists of five Enercon E-70 2.3 MW wind turbines with a total power of 11.5 MW.

Pumping station

Using energy supplied by the wind farm, it pumps seawater from a lower 150,000 m³ reservoir to a higher 400,000 m³ reservoir.

It has two 1500 kW and six 500 kW pumps, with a total power of 6 MW.

Turbine plant

On days with little wind, the pumping plant releases the water stored in the upper tank from a height of 655 meters to activate the turbines and generate the necessary electricity.

It includes four 2,830 kW Pelton pump groups with a total power of 11.32 MW, and a maximum flow in generation of 2 m³/sec.

Map illustrating the location of the Gorona del Viento Hydroelectric Power Plant in El Hierro (Canary Islands)

El Hierro in figures

10,600 inhabitants.

Three municipalities.

A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 2000.

Main milestones

1997: Approval of the El Hierro Sustainability Plan.

2014: Inauguration of the Gorona del Viento hydroelectric power plant.

2015: On August 9 at 12 noon, 100% renewable energy was used for the first time for four hours.

Benefits in the next 20 years

Our goal

The goal of this project is to meet the island's demand for electricity with renewable energy, guaranteeing network stability.

Reduce fuel consumption
6,000
fewer tons of diesel in the next 20 years (about 40,000 barrels of oil).
Reduce CO₂
19,000
tons of CO₂ less in the next 20 years.

The wind-hydro system includes a wind farm, a hydroelectric power plant, a pumping station and two water tanks.

The wind farm has five wind turbines and 11.5 MW of installed power (5 x 2.3 MW). To give you an idea, a household consumes 4,000 KWh a year. This means that Gorona del Viento can already supply electricity to 5,000 families .When the project will be completed, it will power the entire population of the island.

In addition to supplying households with electricity, the wind turbines supply energy to several pumping stations to retain water in a raised tank.

The water in this tank is a way of storing energy as it slides towards the lowest part of the island by the force of gravity, powering the hydroelectric plant.

The hydroelectric power plant has a power of 11.3 MW (4 x 2.83 MW) and the pumping station 6 MW (2 x 1.5 MW + 6 x 0.5 MW).

The lower tank can hold 150,000 m3 of water and the top tank, which is built in a natural volcanic basin, can store 380,000 m3.

In August 2015, thanks to the wind-hydro power station, the people of El Hierro were able to meet their goal: self-sufficiency in electricity without using fossil fuels. On August 9th, at noon, the Gorona del Viento power plant generated all the island's electricity using renewable energy for four consecutive hours. Over the following months, the island's 100% renewable generation period has been extended, becoming a world pioneer.

“Currently the wind-hydro power plant is capable of covering 75% of annual electricity demand with renewable sources.  This percentage will keep on growing if we now work on adapting this demand to the efficient model using alternative energies that El Hierro has laid out in its 100% Renewable Project.”

Belén Allende, President of the Gorona del Viento and El Hierro Council

Results

This system is expected to provide annual savings of 18,700 tonnes of CO2 emissions and €2 million, equivalent to the 5,000 tonnes of diesel fuel that no longer needs to be bought. Add to this the reduction in emissions and consumption from the electric vehicles considered in the plan to develop this new technology on the island.

The effectiveness of this project improves with each passing year, and in the first half of 2018 the island’s power station generated 100% of the island’s electricity needs for a period of 1,450 hours, a percentage notably higher than that for 2017, which achieved this level for a period of 892 hours. In addition to this, during the first six months of the year savings were made of 3,700 tonnes of diesel oil, and of approximately 12,100 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

The Gorona del Viento wind-hydro power plant now manages to produce all the energy that the island needs, with an annual average of 60% of energy from renewables, often hitting peaks of 100%. 

Find out more on www.goronadelviento.es

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