Azores project key for island microgrid credibility

Gorona del Viento: poor performance means other island microgrids are under scrutiny. Photo: www.animam.photography.

Gorona del Viento: poor performance means other island storage projects are under scrutiny. Photo: www.animam.photography.

By Jason Deign

A project on Graciosa, Azores, has become key for the credibility of island-based storage following concerns over another plant more than 1,500km away.

The Younicos project on Graciosa is set to go live within weeks amid speculation that another attempt to power an island off renewables, in El Hierro, Canary Islands, has failed to meet expectations.

El Hierro’s Gorona del Viento plant, which combines an 11.5MW wind farm with a pumped hydro storage system, was launched with much fanfare in 2014. Its initial aim was to replace 80% of diesel generation needed for the island grid.

Last month, the plant operator revealed the EUR€82m Gorona del Viento had allowed El Hierro to run continuously off nothing but renewable energy for 55 hours.

And last week Gorona del Viento said the plant supplied 67% of the island’s power throughout July and had set a new record of 76 hours with 100% renewable production.
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Living the renewable lifestyle

Enercon wind turbines at the Gorona del Viento wind and pumped hydro clean energy project, which will give El Hierro renewable energy sufficient to replace 80% of its diesel.

Enercon wind turbines at the Gorona del Viento wind and pumped hydro storage project, which will give El Hierro renewable energy sufficient to replace 80% of its diesel use. Photo credit: Animam for Energy Storage Report

A small island in the Atlantic is showing how energy storage can be used to help run on 100% renewable energy.

To get to El Hierro, in the southwest tip of the Canary Islands, you first need to fly to the provincial capital of Santa Cruz, in Tenerife, halfway along the island chain. There, a surprising sight currently greets visitors.

Alongside the cargo boats and cruise ships in the town’s busy port lie three hulking drill rigs.

The massive structures await the start of an oil prospection project green-lighted by Spain’s Minister for Energy, Trade and Tourism, Jose Manuel Soria, in the waters between Morocco and Fuerteventura in the eastern Canaries.

Soria’s steamroller approval of the project, with an OK being granted in principle even before the closing date for objections, has angered Canary Islanders.

The potential for oil extraction

They see the potential for offshore oil extraction as a threat to tourism, the main source of income for the islands.

“They’re probably here because if they were in Fuerteventura people would set fire to them,” says Olivier Bello, who works at Tenerife’s La Laguna University, nodding towards the drill rigs.

The islanders have good reason to feel concerned. After all, in El Hierro, less than 30 minutes flight time by prop plane from Santa Cruz, they are showing how there could be another, more sustainable energy economy.
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