Tue 29 Apr 2014
Now this is off the grid and I love it. I really need to say nothing more about it. The world is starting to change.
Two hundred miles off the coast of Spain, a small island marked by a massive volcanic crater is about to become a case study for an ultramodern, zero impact society.
Over the last twelve years, engineers, researchers, and residents of El Heirro, the smallest of Spain’s Canary Islands, have been building one of the world’s most interesting living laboratories for sustainable off-grid living. They erected five towering wind turbines, built a huge reservoir that works as a battery, and installed three desalination plants that will let the tiny outpost harvest its drinking water from the sea. Now, the $75 million project is almost ready to be brought online.
The entire pioneering system is slated to begin its stab at modern closed-loop living at the end of June. While there are a number of solar power-reliant island communities, the press has dubbed El Hierro the first to live entirely off of the wind. Its only serious predecessor is Samso, a Danish island that’s also powered almost entirely by wind power, but unlike Hierro, it’s still wired up to the mainland’s coal-fired grid.
Right now, El Hierro relies on diesel generators to keep the lights on for its 10,000 residents, a practice that’s both costly and dirty. The new fleet of turbines will be capable of generating 11.5 megawatts of power.
That’s more than enough, when the gusts are ample, to keep electricity flowing to all of its homes and shops, as wells as to its three desalination plants. So when the gales are good, water and power are teased out of the sky—but it’s how El Hierro handles a lack of wind that harbors the biggest innovation.
Inset image of El Hierro: Cnes/Wikipedia
Go there and read. More next week.