Leave it Europe to once again lead The West in Green innovation.  The tiny island of El Hierro 150 kilometers off the coast of Spain is poised to become the first island to use 100% renewable energy as it’s primary source of power.

The $87 million project will provide electricity for the island’s 11,000 inhabitants using a combination of wind power and pumped water storage.  This move makes sense because the island receives lots of sunshine and surrounded by water.

Like many remote islands, El Hierro generates electricity with diesel oil transported from mainland terminals by oil tanker. The carbon impact is significant – in El Hierro’s case it amounts to 18,200 tons of CO2 per year in power generation emissions alone, an impact that the renewable energy project will eliminate.

The project consists of an 11.5 megawatt (MW) wind farm and an 11.3 MW hydroelectric pumped storage plant that will provide the island’s 11,000 inhabitants with 80 percent of their energy needs. The remaining 20 percent will be generated by solar thermal collectors and grid-connected photovoltaic systems.

ABB is playing a lead role in the project by providing a power and automation solution that will electrify and control the hydroelectric pumped storage plant, and integrate into the island grid the energy generated by wind and hydropower turbines.

The Greek island of Icaria is already building a hydro-wind project modeled on El Hierro, and the power industry as a whole is following the project closely with an eye to larger scale implementation.

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