El Hierro, the tiniest of the main islands in Spain’s Canary archipelago, made history in the summer of 2023 when it supplied all the island’s energy needs with just wind and water power for 28 days straight, as Euronews Green reported.
El Hierro (sometimes called Ferro) is currently the only island in the world to have achieved such a feat, said the news outlet, and it serves as a beacon of hope to cool the planet.
According to the report, “the 1.1 million-year-old volcanic island is on route to being 100 percent energy self-sufficient,” thanks in large part to its innovative wind-pumped hydropower plant, Gorona del Viento.
The hydroelectric power station is the main source of electricity on the island, delivering energy to El Hierro’s roughly 11,000 inhabitants. Gorona del Viento takes advantage of the island’s unique topography, combining hydropower generated between lakes at different elevations and wind energy from strong gusts off the Atlantic Ocean.
According to The Christian Science Monitor (CSM), the power plant works by harnessing energy from industrial wind turbines built into the hillside. On extremely windy days, excess power from the 11.5-megawatt (MW) wind farm helps pump freshwater from a small reservoir near the island’s harbor to a bigger basin at a volcanic crater about 2,300 feet above sea level, per Power magazine.
When the turbines produce less energy, water from the upper reservoir gets released into the lower basin with the hydroelectric power station, generating electricity for homes, businesses, and a desalination plant.
Before the power plant opened in 2014, the island used thousands of tons of imported diesel fuel each year for energy, CSM reported. While El Hierro still keeps a backup supply of fuel in case of outages, it’s made huge strides toward transitioning to green energy sources.
The power plant beat a world record in July and August 2019, providing clean power to El Hierro for nearly 25 days, the plant reported. Its recent record of 28 days is encouragement for other island nations that want to become energy self-sufficient.
The Gorona del Viento power plant reduces planet-warming pollution by nearly 25,000 tons and saves almost 7,500 tons of diesel fuel per year, according to its website. With solar installations planned by 2050, the power plant aims to cut pollution even further and ramp up renewable energy production.
“Because globally the climate is changing for the worse, and very quickly, we need to continue to implement renewable energies. The only way to reverse climate change is to stop producing harmful toxins into the atmosphere,” Santiago Miguel González, CEO of Gorona del Viento, told The Christian Science Monitor.
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