Lanzarote will shortly launch its first solar energy park north of Arrecife. It will join several wind turbines as part of a new commitment to renewable energy sources. But the island has a long way to go before it matches its neighbours…

The Canary Islands currently have the capacity to produce 417.6 megawatts from wind energy, and islands such as El Hierro and Fuerteventura have made huge strides in terms of renewables. Nevertheless, this overall figure accounts for less than 10% of the power used by all the islands, and Lanzarote’s figure of 23.43 MW is a tiny fraction of the Canarian total.

Lanzarote’s commitment to renewables has been disappointing for several years, with island authorities complacently relying on the diesel oil- burning power station at Las Caletas to churn out the vast majority of the island’s electricity. As many visitors to the island remark, Lanzarote is an island with immense potential for becoming a pioneer in solar, wind, geothermal and tidal power sources; but until recently its leaders have dragged their feet.

And while Lanzarote has dawdled, other Canarian islands have grasped the initiative. El Hierro is now largely self-sufficient due to its harnessing of hydro and wind energy; while Fuerteventura’s resort of Corralejo has also been self-sufficient for long periods and the island has just opened a large wind park near its capital, Puerto del Rosario.

But Lanzarote has made plans. The previous President of the island’s Cabildo, Pedro San Ginés, finally began to launch a renewables plan in the last few years, and future governments are likely to add to it. Lanzarote’s long-term energy plan envisages that 57 wind turbines and various solar power installations will be operating by 2038, while 40,000 electric vehicles will be on the roads. The aim is that Lanzarote will be producing 73% clean energy within 20 years.

A shorter-term target, for the end of next year, will see ten turbines operating at the Los Valles wind park in Haría, two more at the Punta Grande plant near the power station, six planned turbines at the new Punta de los Vientos wind park overlooking the golf course, and four new turbines at the Teguise 1 park. This boost to the island’s renewable energy resources will see Lanzarote producing 20% of its energy needs from renewable resources.

Sun Worshippers

Next year should also also see the arrival of the island’s first major solar power installation. The Balsa de Maneje is a man-made reservoir located in an industrial zone of northern Arrecife and, in addition to the huge Maretas del Estado, was one of the main water deposits that supplied the city before the construction of the desalination plant. The solar panels will provide power for the main pumping station that provides water to the capital.

Solar power, however, remains under- represented on an island with so much uninterrupted sunshine to offer, and the Cabildo’s recent decision to reject an application to build a solar park near Las Caletas has highlighted official reluctance to make the most of the opportunities available.

Las Caletas is close to the complex of buildings that form the island’s power station and main water desalination plant, and apart from the old saltworks to the east of the village, there is plenty of undeveloped land inland.

However, the Cabildo ruled out the project on the grounds that the solar panels could “affect certain species” and “damage island heritage”. They also mentioned the “visual impact” of the solar panels and its potential effect on tourism.

It seems the visual impact of rows of solar panels would be a step too far in an area marked by industrial buildings and smoke-belching diesel oil plants; and just a few minutes from some of the most spectacularly ugly examples of Costa Teguise’s abandoned “skeleton hotels”.

The visual impact argument also ignores the fact that, only a couple of years ago, two huge wind turbines were erected near Las Caletas and are visible from most of Costa Teguise. As we’ve seen, many more turbines are planned but comparatively low-lying solar panels are avoided.