Although El Hierro in the Canary Islands has rightly made headlines for its push to run on 100% renewable energy, it is its larger neighbour La Gomera that is famous for extensive forests, the Garajonay National Park and as a pioneer in ‘eco-tourism’ dating back over 20 years.
Now La Gomera, which currently relies on fossil fuels for 99% of its energy needs, has laid out plans to follow El Hierro’s example and transition to 100% renewable energy use within 12 years, reducing power costs by 37% in the process.
El Hierro has received attention by surviving for months on wind energy alone and getting 39% of its electricity needs from wind in 2016. In January and February this year, all 10,700 inhabitants were supplied entirely by renewable sources for 18 consecutive days.
But the “La Gomera 100% Sostenible” project is more ambitious: the regional government wants to turn La Gomera into another Iceland by 2030, mirroring Europe’s northernmost country’s 100% green energy supply and making it “a global example of a sustainable energy system”.
The island is ideal “for the development of innovative projects related to renewable energies and the re-use of waste and has an important potential to become a natural laboratory for the testing and demonstration of pioneering projects in these areas,” said Pedro Ortega, Minister of Economy, Industry, Commerce and Knowledge of the Canary Islands Government.
The westernmost island in the Canaries, lying just off the coast of Tenerife, currently has a handful of solar panels owned by private individuals and two wind generators of 0.4 megawatts (MW) of power.
By 2030, the plan is to have enough wind farms to create 8MW of power, sufficient solar panels to generate 5MW, and for 20% of the island’s cars to be electric, supplemented by energy efficiency investments. A biogas plant will be studied as another way to generate power. The overall objective is for the island, whose population is twice that of El Hierro and which has tourist resorts with capacity for 800 visitors, to be entirely fossil-fuel free and rely on green energy for its electricity, heating and transport (lorries and buses will be electric or hydrogen-powered). Hydrogen generators, water pumps and storage systems are being studied as back-ups for when there is insufficient wind and sun. The cost is expected to be offset within 7 to 12 years thanks to lower production expenses.