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El Hierro to be first island powered exclusively by wind & water

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CleanTechnica

rsz_el-hierro-canary-islandsUpon completion of its next wind farm in June, the island of El Hierro (one of Spain’s Canary Islands off the coast of Africa) will become the first in the world to be fully powered by wind and water! The island uses hydroelectric power during low-wind periods, and wind farms provide the power required to pump water back into the reservoir located in a volcanic crater 2,300 feet above sea level.

When more electricity is needed, the water is released through electricity-generating turbines and flows back into a lower reservoir. This simple (but useful) concept is called pumped hydroelectric storage (or pumped-storage hydroelectricity). “This system guarantees us a supply of electricity,” said the director of the Gorona del Viento wind power plant, Juan Manuel Quintero. This $75 million project replaced a set of diesel-fueled generators which would otherwise have significantly contributed to local air pollution, and of course climate change.

According to ThinkProgress, the wind farm can generate up to 11.5 MW, enough to power the island and its desalination plants, reducing CO2 emissions by 26,000 tons per year and oil usage by 40,000 barrels per annually. 11.5 MW is not much, but the island’s population is only 10,000. (An existing oil power station will be maintained in case it is needed.)

Yet Another Region Powered Entirely By Renewable Energy

This region is the first island to be powered entirely by wind and water, but not the first to be powered by renewable energy. Opponents of renewable energy claim that it is impossible to power a country with only renewable energy, citing the fact that wind farms cannot generate electricity all the time. The 100% wind-powered island of Samsø has proven this notion incorrect, however.

The inability of wind farms to generate electricity 24/7 can be addressed using an energy storage system which can provide a consistent supply of electricity all day, or can be addressed via backup generators. However, in the latter case, it can’t be considered 100% renewable.

 Source: CleanTechnica. Reproduced with permission.

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  • Hugh Sharman

    El Hierro has been an outrageously expensive boondoggle and can never be replicated again.

    Samsø has a fixed underwater cable with Western Denmark and is constantly exchanging power with the mainland to keep its system in balance. So although it generates an awful lot of wind power, relative to its population, it is by no means “powered 100% by renewable resources”.

    Likewise, Denmark which generated the equivalent of 30% of all electricity consumed last year, could not keep its system balanced and secure without constantly exchanging power with its three neighbours, Norway, Sweden and Germany.

    Norway, being 100% hydro, acts as a sort of “battery”, regulating Danish wind power by turning hydropower up or down according to how much regulating power is required by the relatively small West Denmark system which hosts most of Denmark’s wind power.

    This happy combination is, to some extent, replicated in other mountainous regions like Washington State (USA), Spain and Portugal. In the absence of low cost electricity storage that can also provide grid inertia, these preconditions are necessary to achieve real independence of the large spinning reserve that can only be provided by nukes and/or fossil generators.

    • Motorshack

      So, if I follow your logic, you are asserting that even on an island in mid-ocean it is possible have an energy system that is 100% renewable, although in such constrained circumstances it may be expensive and a bit tricky.

      You are also saying, if I understand correctly, that by cooperating in a suitable manner, neighboring regions, each with a key function to contribute, can quite easily develop an energy system that has little or no reliance on nuclear or fossil fuels.

      Apparently, from the way you phrase things, the real problem here is that such regions are indeed engaging in such profitable trade, instead of remaining as isolated as possible from one another.

      Further, you are saying that the only way to maintain this desirable state of isolation is to resort to increasingly expensive, dirty, and dangerous nuclear and fossil fuel power plants.

      Have I got that right?