Wind turbines are pictured near the upper reservoir of the Gorona power station on El Hierro island on March 28, 2014

Desiree Martin/AFP/File Wind turbines are pictured near the upper reservoir of the Gorona power station on El Hierro island on March 28, 2014

The smallest and least known of Spain’s Canary Islands, El Hierro, is making a splash by becoming the first island in the world fully energy self-sufficient through combined water and wind power.

A wind farm opening at the end of June will turn into electricity the gusts that rake the steep cliffs and green mountains of the volcanic island off the Atlantic coast of Africa.

Its five turbines installed at the northeastern tip of El Hierro near the capital Valverde will have a total output of 11.5 megawatts — more than enough power to meet the demand of the island’s roughly 10,000 residents and its energy-hungry water desalination plants.

Although other islands around the world are powered by solar or wind energy, experts say El Hierro is the first to secure a constant supply of electricity by combining wind and water power and with no connection to any outside electricity network.

The lower reservoir and hydropower station at the Gorona power station on El Hierro island on March 28, 2014

Desiree Martin/AFP/File The lower reservoir and hydropower station at the Gorona power station on El Hierro island on March 28, 2014

Surplus power from the wind turbines will be used to pump fresh water from a reservoir near the harbour to a larger one at volcanic crater located about 700 metres (2,300 feet) above sea level.

When there is little or no wind, the water will be channelled down to the lower reservoir through turbines to generate electricity in turn.

“This system guarantees us a supply of electricity,” said the director of the Gorona del Viento wind power plant, Juan Manuel Quintero who is supervising final tests before the plant starts functioning in a few weeks.

The plant will account for 50 percent of the island’s electricity demand when it is officially inaugurated at the end of June, a figure that will rise to 100 percent over the following months.

The scheme will cut carbon dioxide emissions by 18,700 tonnes per year and eliminate the island’s annual consumption of 40,000 barrels of oil.

Emplyees work in the pump room at the Gorona power station on El Hierro island on March 28, 2014

Desiree Martin/AFP/File Emplyees work in the pump room at the Gorona power station on El Hierro island on March 28, 2014

El Hierro will maintain its fuel oil power station as a back up, just in case.

– ‘World pioneer’ –

The island is cited as a pioneering project by IRENA, the international organisation for renewable energy, and other experts such as Alain Gioda, a climate historian at France IRD science research institute.

“The true novelty of El Hierro is that technicians have managed, without being connected to any national network, to guarantee a stable production of electricity, that comes 100 percent from renewable energy, overcoming the intermittent nature of the wind,” he said.

El Hierro’s wind power plant has sparked interest from other islands seeking to follow its example.

A Turbogenerator set (L) and a lubrication (blue) at the Gorona power station on El Hierro island on March 28, 2014

Desiree Martin/AFP/File A Turbogenerator set (L) and a lubrication (blue) at the Gorona power station on El Hierro island on March 28, 2014

Officials from Aruba, Hawaii, Samso in Denmark, Oki in Japan, and Indonesia have all shown interest.

“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.

– Electric vehicles –

A recharging point for electric vehicles at the Gorona power station on El Hierro island on March 28, 2014

Desiree Martin/AFP/File A recharging point for electric vehicles at the Gorona power station on El Hierro island on March 28, 2014

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 subsidise water prices, infrastructure, social policies,” he said.

El Hierro, designated by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve with 60 percent of its territory of 278 square kilometres (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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About kingstonrenewableenergy

Kingston Renewable Energy (KRE), Hydropower products, wind energy, renewable energy products, We manufacture, supply and install. Richard Kingston KRE is the home of Fluxy, a beautiful Irish made wind turbine designed to last several life-times, and a host of other Hydro products branded under KRE hydro. KRE HYDRO- KRE are currently installing a range of Hydro products including high head low flow systems and low head high flow. These are pelton and Turgo types for high head, crossflow Banki turbines for medium to low head and Powerpal for Ultra low head. We also plan to introduce a custom timber/steel/aluminium waterwheel service for those of you who are lucky enough to have disused mills on their land and who would like to restore them to their former glory (and make a healthy profit in the process). All hydro installations are custom designed. This is necessary because everybody's land and water resource is different and to benefit from the highest efficiency and lowest payback time the hydro system must be customized according to what flow, penstock length required, and what head is available. Hydropower is currently by far the most cost effective renewable resource in Ireland under the existing Feed in tariff structure and export rate of 9c per unit (wholesale rate for bigger systems is €0.087/kWh). It is surprising how much energy is to be harvested from even a small stream and we are offering 4 to 7 year payback times on average and high profits thereafter. KRE FLUXY- It has been a long journey from when I originally set out to buy a wind turbine to power my own house in 2007 and discovered that the existing machines on offer in the market failed to meet my desires as a customer; that is, to possess an aesthetically designed machine with a low embodied carbon footprint and a long design lifespan. This led to my resolve to make this a possibility as I knew there were other like minded folks out there who had the same needs when buying into renewable energy. I have always been a keen environmental activist and had a strong understanding of engineering and material sciences which enabled me to see failings in the high tech electronically controlled machines commonly available today. These weaknesses come from over complicating the wind system with servo motors, sensors, gear trains, relays and logic circuits; fine for large utility scale turbines which are constantly monitored and have continual maintenance on site but not for a small wind turbine in the back yard to run the house. I could see that wind turbines needed to be brought back to a less complicated yet modern design that would withstand time and the turbulent and violent winds we see in Ireland and fulfilling the old engineers adage of ‘KISS’ or ‘keep it simple stupid’. With less component parts, there are less things to go wrong. My vision was to create a machine that offered the benefits of being an economic investment, a positive for the environment and also to be a design piece that our customers are proud to have flying in their grounds. And so, I present you with the fully mechanical Kingston Renewable Energy Fluxy wind turbine. Please feel free to contact us at any time if you have any questions or think you may have a good wind site. We will happily do a site assessment come rain or shine. Stay posted for the monthly blogs from our inspirational team here at KRE. Check out our latest installments in our crusade to get higher feed-in tariffs in Ireland so that we can compete with the rest of Europe in the micro-generation stakes. The Hydro section of our website will be updated shortly to show our newest installations and showcase our products. Yours sincerely, Richard Kingston

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