First Island to Be Powered Solely by Wind and Water

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"It is a project which is considered at the world level as a pioneer and it is one of the most important in the production of renewable energy," said the president of island's local council, Alpidio Armas. "El Hierro can be a sort of laboratory," he added, providing an example to other islands around the world which are home to around 600 million people.

El Hierro, the westernmost of Spain's Canary Islands, has also been invited to present its project at several international conferences, including in Malta and South Korea.

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El Hierro wants to extend its environmental credentials even further by ensuring that by 2020 all of its 6,000 vehicles are run on electricity thanks to an agreement with the Renault-Nissan alliance.

The wind power plant cost 80 million euros ($110 million) to build. The island authorities own 60 percent of the plant, with 30 percent held by Spanish energy company Endesa -- a subsidiary of Italian group Enel -- and 10 percent by a local technology institute.

"We wanted to be the owners of the majority of the plant. That means that the profits as well as the possible losses, that is the destiny of Gorona del Viento, is the responsibility of the residents of the island," said Armas.

Revenues from the plant will boost the island's budget by about one to three million euros per year, he said.

"These are revenues that can go to the local residents, to subsidize water prices, infrastructure, social policies," he said.

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El Hierro, designated by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve with 60 percent of its territory of 278 square kilometers (107 square miles) protected to preserve its natural diversity, also hopes its green energy drive will draw visitors interested in nature and science.

"We cannot turn down the benefits that tourism brings, but we don't want mass tourism," said Armas.

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