Green Cities Fit for Life

Image by Ursula Bach

World’s First Energy Sufficient Island

The smallest and southernmost of Spain’s Canary Islands, El Hierro, is set to become the first island in the world to be fully energy self-sufficient, thanks to a system of combined wind and water power. The wind plant will consist of five wind turbines, which will produce 11.5 megawatts of power – enough energy to meet the demand of the 10,000 inhabitants.

Wind turbines and an extinct volcano make this pioneering energy feat possible. Image courtesy of independent.co.uk

Wind turbines and an extinct volcano make this pioneering energy feat possible.
Image courtesy of independent.co.uk

The energy collected at the wind plant will also be used to pump water up to a large reservoir located 700 metres above sea level in a volcanic creator. Even when the wind isn’t blowing, hydropower will provide sufficient energy as the water will run back down and through turbines, resulting in a continuous supply of electricity. This process is known as pump-storage hydroelectricity and is currently used in many other countries around the world. The scheme will cut carbon dioxide emissions by 18,700 tonnes per year and eliminate the island’s annual consumption of 40,000 barrels of oil.

The European Green Capital Award encourages environmental excellence. For instance, it rewards cities with innovative practices, where progress in the social, economic and environmental spheres is combined to improve the overall quality of life for citizens who work and live there. Each of the European Green Capitals to date – Stockholm, Hamburg, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Nantes and Copenhagen – is an inspiring example of how cities can pioneer environmental change.