Upon 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.