Small islands, big moves: Renewable off-grid solutions across the sea

Three islands championing renewable energy deployment.

Summer is here! As you might read this story in your office, how about a virtual trip to some beautiful islands? Put on your sunglasses and hop with us from Samsø (Denmark) over to Tilos (Greece) and then to El Hierro (Spain), three islands championing renewable energy deployment.

Because of their isolated position and their separation from the “mainland”, islands tend to depend on fossil fuel imports to get the energy they need. However, their easy access to renewable sources such as wind and wave energy presents an enormous potential.

Initiatives such as GREENCAP are already promoting viable solutions, trying to capitalize on the technical and scientific results of its modular projects community in the Renewable Energy Sources (RES) field within the Mediterranean (MED) area. Additionally, the European Commission, in May last year, launched the Clean Energy for EU Islands Initiative together with 14 European States. The initiative aims to provide a long-term framework to help islands generate their own sustainable, low-cost energy.

Through the Renewable Networking Platform, we came across these three very inspiring islands in Denmark, Greece and Spain: Samsø, Tilos and El Hierro are reaching their full energy potential one step at a time.

Samsø’s self-sufficiency masterplan

Credits: Flikr, Bo Jensen, CC_by-nc-nd 2.0

You might already have heard about pioneering Samsø. In 1997, the Danish island drew up a 10-year master plan to become 100% self-sufficient with renewable energies. By 2007 the island had become 100% self-sufficient for its electricity needs and 70% of its heat needs were covered by renewables. The island’s electricity is produced by 11 land-based wind-turbines. As for heating, the island has three straw-based district heating systems and one district heating plant which uses both woodchips and solar energy. In addition to that, 300 houses have invested in individual renewable energy heating systems. Thanks to its 10 offshore wind turbines, which offset the heat produced from non-renewable sources and private transportation, the island is now 100% CO2 neutral. But the work is not over yet: Samsø’s long term objective is to become fossil-fuel free by 2030.

Find out how they did it on the RNP website!

The TILOS project: innovative technology for RES penetration


Credits: Flikr, Almeriki01, CC_by-nc-nd 2.0

Like many Greek small islands, Tilos is dependent on oil-based energy imports via underwater pipelines, which often develop faults. Thanks to EU research funds, the municipality embarked on the TILOS project in 2015, in order to ensure service continuity and contribute to renewable energy growth. A total of 50 smart meters and Demand Side Management (DMS) panel devices have been installed in local homes. The devices allow for real-time monitoring of electricity consumption as well as for remote control of certain electricity loads, which in turn enables DSM strategies to be applied that encourage people to use less energy at peak times.

Learn more!

El Hierro putting a stop to oil shipments

El Hierro

Credits: Flikr, Guitafish, CC_by-nc 2.0

Because of the topography of the surrounding seabed, El Hierro, an active volcanic island, was never able to hook up to Spain’s power grid. Instead, it used to ship in around 40,000 barrels of oil each year to power electricity generators. In 2014, El Hierro inaugurated the Gorona del Viento power plant, a wind and water turbine farm and in 2015 the island went 100% renewable for the first time. The project was partly funded by a €35 million European Union grant. It consisted in the installation of an 11.5 megawatt (MW) wind farm and an 11.3 MW pumped storage hydroelectric power plant that can provide the island’s inhabitants with 80% of their energy needs. The Gorona del Viento wind-hydro power plant now manages to produce all the energy that the island needs, with an annual average of 60% of energy from renewables, often hitting peaks of 100%. In February 2018, the island ran for 18 consecutive days on renewable energy only!

Read more!

Samsø, Tilos and El Hierro’s impressive efforts have not only had positive effects on their energy supply and the environment. These projects have brought local stakeholders together and built greater environmental awareness among citizens, who in some cases have had an active role in the renewable energy projects. Additionally, they have increased the islands’ visibility, with positive effects on tourism…Just in case there were not already enough good reasons to embark on the energy transition!


Publication date

June 21, 2018