Using a 10 MW wind plant to pump half a million tons of water into the naturally sealed cauldron of a volcano and then letting it drop 682 metres through a 10 MW mini-hydro power plant to provide an entire island's electricity needs might seem utopian. But that EUR 54.3 million Spanish project is now set to become a reality by 2010 for El Hierro, a Canary Island formed by an inactive volcano soaring 1500 metres out of the sea. Last month, the publicly led project, under development since 1999, won a subsidy from state energy efficiency agency, Insituto para la Diversificación y Ahorro de la Energía (IDAE). IDAE claims the wind-hydro hybrid will make El Hierro the world's first island to meet all base load demand from renewables. IDAE has promised an initial EUR 15 million and intends to follow this with an additional EUR 20 million by end-2009. The remaining EUR 15.3 million will come from project developer, Gorona del Viento, 70% controlled by the Canaries' regional government. Spain's top utility, Endesa, owns the rest. Wind generation excess to pumping requirements will go to stepping up production at the island's two desalination plants. In all, the developer claims the hybrid will cover the island's 48 GWh electricity demand as estimated for 2015. It will also substitute annual imports of 6000 tones of fuel, worth EUR 1.8 million, for the island's existing diesel fired plant, which will remain intact to cover emergency periods of wind and water shortages.
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