As ecological projects go, El Hierro, the smallest of the Canary Islands, is chasing a really ambitious dream, to be 100% self sufficient in clean renewable energyÂ by 2010. They are turning the entire 278 square kilometres of the island into a vast experiment costing 54 million euros and producing a saving of 18,700 tons of CO2.
The project was announced in 1997, and plans are well advanced to complete the infrastructure needed to make the dream a reality. It includes a wind park, to harness the power of the wind on this exposed eastern island, and a large desalination plants on the coast to clean water for direct use and to feed a giant hydro electric plant.
The hydro electric station is the centrepiece of the plan and will produce power from a water filled valley that presses down on the turbines. This water will then be recycled, pumped back up into the resevoir to perform it’s function again and again.
The 10,000 people who live in El Hierro will embrace eco friendly living as part of their daily lives, in everything from sustainable agriculture to hydrogen powered buses on the internal transport system. The cost of the project is being shared between the El Hierro government and the Canary Island government, with a big input from power company Endesa. This is a showcase project and one that other islands will look to follow. There are 100 other islands in the world that have already made officialÂ enquiries about taking on the challenge themselves, and there are plenty more that could follow. In the European Union alone, 17 million people live on islands and that rises to 700 million across the world.
The landscape of El Hierro, and it’s size, makes it a perfect testing ground for this scheme but what has really made it all come together is the political will andÂ commitment of the island inhabitants to push the project forward and the vision to see the rewards that lay at the end of it.Â