Premium Membership ♕

Save 50% on all EEP Academy courses with Enterprise Membership Plan and study specialized LV/MV/HV technical articles & guides.

Home / Technical Articles / ABB – The world’s first renewable energy island
The small island of El Hierro
The small island of El Hierro is on track to be the first Island in the world to be completely powered by renewable energy sources by the end of the year.

A Spanish island in the Atlantic Ocean is set to become the first island in the world to be powered solely by renewable energy. The $87 million project will provide electricity for the island’s 11,000 inhabitants using a combination of wind power and pumped water storage. ABB power and automation technologies are playing a leading role.

Located about 1,500 kilometers off the Spanish coast in the Atlantic Ocean, El Hierro is the smallest and most remote of the Canary Islands, an archipelago of sun-drenched Spanish islands and one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations. Like many remote islands, El Hierro generates electricity with diesel oil transported from mainland terminals by oil tanker. The carbon impact is significant – in El Hierro’s case it amounts to 18,200 tons of CO2 per year in power generation emissions alone, an impact that the renewable energy project will eliminate.

The project consists of an 11.5 megawatt (MW) wind farm and an 11.3 MW hydroelectric pumped storage plant that will provide the island’s 11,000 inhabitants with 80 percent of their energy needs. The remaining 20 percent will be generated by solar thermal collectors and grid-connected photovoltaic systems. ABB is playing a lead role in the project by providing a power and automation solution that will electrify and control the hydroelectric pumped storage plant, and integrate into the island grid the energy generated by wind and hydropower turbines.

The solution comprises a new interconnection substation, equipped with UniGear and UniMix medium voltage switchgear, which will receive the power generated by the five wind turbines and the hydropower turbines, and deliver it to the island’s main substation via distributed transformers and a Relion® REB 670 intelligent protection system.

An important challenge for ABB was the installation of Automatic Generation Control (AGC), which maintains stable plant frequency and voltage by sharing active and reactive power demand in the generators and tie-lines. This is done in a way that allows the working points of the generator sets to operate with as much margin as possible, so that the plant can withstand bigger disturbances.

At the two pumping stations, ABB motors, variable speed drives and dry-type transformers will power the pumps at high levels of reliability and ensure that the entire process is smooth and efficient, consuming minimal levels of energy and reducing equipment wear and tear.

Overview of the El Hierro renewable energy project
Overview of the El Hierro renewable energy project showing the lower reservoir and hydroelectric plant near the sea, and the upper reservoir and wind farm higher up the hillside. The upper reservoir will have a capacity of 556,000 cubic meters of water, which can generate enough hydropower to meet the island’s electricity needs for seven days.

The entire renewable energy project will be controlled by an ABB distributed control system (DCS). Based on ABB’s System 800xA extended automation platform, the solution will control the four hydropower turbines, the pumped storage process, the new interconnection substation and the existing substation, and communicate with the new wind farm.

By communicating with the wind farm, the ABB control solution will automatically start releasing water from the upper reservoir to generate power at the hydroelectric plant whenever the wind power generated is insufficient to meet demand. Conversely, excess wind power will be used to pump water to the upper reservoir, for use when wind power is low. The Greek island of Icaria is already building a hydro-wind project modeled on El Hierro, and the power industry as a whole is following the project closely with an eye to larger scale implementation.

ABB was selected by the project’s engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor, Elecnor.

SOURCE: ABB Communications – The world’s first renewable energy island

Premium Membership

Get access to premium HV/MV/LV technical articles, electrical engineering guides, research studies and much more! It helps you to shape up your technical skills in your everyday life as an electrical engineer.
More Information

Edvard Csanyi

Electrical engineer, programmer and founder of EEP. Highly specialized for design of LV/MV switchgears and LV high power busbar trunking (<6300A) in power substations, commercial buildings and industry facilities. Professional in AutoCAD programming.


  1. Denise
    Mar 18, 2016

    Well, this is a step forward, hopefully more small countries can follow suit.

Leave a Comment

Tell us what you're thinking. We care about your opinion! Please keep in mind that comments are moderated and rel="nofollow" is in use. So, please do not use a spammy keyword or a domain as your name, or it will be deleted. Let's have a professional and meaningful conversation instead. Thanks for dropping by!

  ⁄  ten  =  one

Learn How to Design Power Systems

Learn to design LV/MV/HV power systems through professional video courses. Lifetime access. Enjoy learning!

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter

Subscribe to our Weekly Digest newsletter and receive free updates on new technical articles, video courses and guides (PDF).
EEP Academy Courses - A hand crafted cutting-edge electrical engineering knowledge