El Hierro, the smallest of Spain’s Canary Islands, achieved a historic milestone in the summer of 2023 by supplying all its energy needs for 28 consecutive days solely through wind and water power. As reported by Euronews Green, El Hierro, also known as Ferro, is now the only island globally to accomplish this feat, emerging as a beacon of hope for sustainable energy practices.
At the heart of this achievement is the innovative wind-pumped hydropower plant, Gorona del Viento, which is driving El Hierro towards complete energy self-sufficiency. The island’s unique topography is harnessed by this hydroelectric power station, integrating hydropower generated between lakes at different elevations and wind energy from the robust Atlantic Ocean gusts.
Gorona del Viento employs industrial wind turbines built into the hillside to harness energy. On exceptionally windy days, excess energy from the 11.5-megawatt wind farm is utilized to pump freshwater from a lower reservoir to a higher volcanic crater basin, approximately 2,300 feet above sea level. During periods of lower wind energy production, water from the upper reservoir flows into the lower basin, powering the hydroelectric station and supplying electricity to homes, businesses, and a desalination plant.
Before the plant’s inauguration in 2014, El Hierro heavily relied on thousands of tons of imported diesel fuel annually for energy, as noted by The Christian Science Monitor (CSM). Although the island maintains a backup fuel supply, it has made substantial progress in transitioning to green energy sources. Prior to the hydroelectric plant’s operation, only 2.2% of electricity on the island came from renewables, according to Euronews Green.
Gorona del Viento achieved a world record in July and August 2019 by providing clean power to El Hierro for nearly 25 days, and it recently surpassed this record with an impressive 28-day streak. The plant’s impact extends beyond El Hierro, serving as encouragement for other island nations seeking energy self-sufficiency.
The power plant’s environmental contributions are substantial, reducing planet-warming pollution by nearly 25,000 tons and saving almost 7,500 tons of diesel fuel annually, as highlighted on its website. With plans for solar installations by 2050, Gorona del Viento aims to further cut pollution and increase renewable energy production, emphasizing the urgency of implementing sustainable energy solutions in the face of global climate change. Santiago Miguel González, CEO of Gorona del Viento, emphasized the need to cease the production of harmful toxins into the atmosphere as a crucial step in reversing climate change.