Gallery: El Hierro: The World’s First Renewable Energy Island… or is It...


El Hierro, the smallest and southern-most island of the Canaries, made headlines recently after it announced plans to become the world’s first island to eradicate its carbon footprint and run completely off 100% renewable energy sources. The Huffington Post reported how El Hierro will be powered by an 11.5 MW wind farm, 11.3 MW of hydroelectric power and a whole bunch of solar thermal collectors and grid-connected photovoltaics. The fact that oil will no longer be transported to this remote location will offset 18,200 tons of carbon dioxide alone. These are undeniably impressive statistics and the project represents a wonderful opportunity for Swiss-Swedish power giant, ABB. Plans call for this ambitious project to be completed by the end of 2011 and will cost $87 million. However there is one problem with the claim that El Hierro is “the world’s first renewable energy island” – it isn’t.

Image by Tiffany Farrant Infographic and Web Design

Back in November 2009 I wrote about the small Danish island of Samsø, 15km off the Jutland Peninsula. In 1997, Samsø won a government competition to become a model renewable energy community. Since then, 21 wind turbines have been built on Samsø – an island 48 km long and 24 km wide with a population of approximately 4000. Ten were built on a sandbank off the island’s south coast and another 11 dotted all over the island, and the island has long been considered one of the most successful green energy projects to have launched since environmentalists started raising the alarm about climate change around thirty years ago. Alongside the turbines, the houses in Samsø’s 22 villages are heated by power plants powered by furnaces fired by wood chips and straw and farms of man-sized solar panels in fields kept trim by herds of sheep.

But this takes nothing away from what the people of El Hierro, with a population of more than double that of Samsø’s, are set to achieve. Projects like these must be celebrated. El Hierro and Samsø are the places where the seeds of our energy future are being sewn. Although it is the financial backing and expertise of private companies like ABB that make these projects a practical reality, it is the foresight and ambition of environmentalists and the will of the people of places such as El Hierro and Samsø that make them possible in the first instance.

Via Huffington Post

Photos by Jose Mesa


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  1. ecstatist October 21, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Hopefully E. H. will be the first completely independent, renewable energy consuming island.(And if we are being pedantic, 200 years ago, nearly all islands were like this and presently there are still a few sparsely inhabited islands where only wind and solar generation with battery stored energy is consumed, or where “primitive” people do not use electricity, fossil fuels etc.)
    Because of steep high volcanoes, E H can store wind produced excess energy, by pumping water up to a height, for use later when there may be no wind.
    Samso indirectly relies on “conventional” energy sources for energy storage!

  2. carl scrivens August 26, 2011 at 5:59 am

    What are the enviromentol costs for the island compared to the longterm enviromentol benefits

  3. ajaybabu1 July 11, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Dear Mr. Jones:
    At the outset, please accept my apologies – when i read “it isn’t” at the end of your article – i pre-judged that you are one of those pompous a*****s that do nothing, but critique.
    But upon clicking on the link – and realizing that what you meant was Samse was the first (while in the same breath you took nothing away from the El Hierro folks) – i realized my folly. Please forgive me.

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