The President of the Canary Islands, Ángel Víctor Torres, presided this Monday, in Chío, a village in the municipality of Guía de Isora (south of Tenerife), over the official ceremony to mark the start of work on the new submarine electricity link designed to connect the islands of Tenerife and La Gomera, a project that represents a milestone in the modernisation of the Canary Islands’ electricity system and in the decarbonisation plans scheduled for the archipelago.
Ángel Víctor Torres referred in his speech to the fact that with this project, born of inter-administrative collaboration, “a great boost is given to the energy transition in the islands and a commitment is made to the green transformation and decarbonisation of the Canary Islands”. This Red Eléctrica investment plan, defended and supported by the regional, island and local administrations, “is a key element in the energy transition that we want for the archipelago and is also framed within the European and national objectives of decarbonisation of the economy, all of which are included in the Canary Islands Sustainable Development Strategy”.
Torres explained that “the submarine electricity interconnection between La Gomera and Tenerife will facilitate the reduction of electricity generation costs and will contribute to reducing dependence on fossil fuels from abroad, while at the same time bringing about an environmental improvement on both islands”.
This initiative in turn contributes to further progress in the increased participation of renewable energies in the Canary Islands’ energy balance (energy mix), which in this legislature, from the end of 2018 to 2022, has gone from representing 10.52% to 20.13%, which means that the contribution of clean energies in the Canary Islands’ energy mix has almost doubled. One fifth of electricity consumption in the islands is already of green, renewable, sustainable origin”, the President of the Canary Islands stressed.
In statements to the media, the regional president insisted that today’s ceremony marks the end of “a tortuous administrative process” that will involve an investment of some 114 million euros, with permits from Costas, an environmental impact statement and the involvement of several administrations.
According to Torres, this submarine cable is a “magnificent example of the Canary Islands Government’s commitment to clean energy, as we have passed a law against climate change, we have gone from 400 homes with photovoltaic energy to nearly 10,000, we have multiplied the number of megawatts, we have almost 500 million euros to commit to sustainability, we have begun dismantling the Santa Cruz refinery, the future Chira-Soria power station is already under construction, and on La Gomera work will soon begin on five wind farms”.
In his opinion, all this demonstrates that the Canary Islands are complying with the Canary Islands 2030 Agenda, reaching 20% of clean energy in the islands, which improves the quality of life of the Canary Islanders, “who made the Law against Climate Change the most participated in the history of the community, who are asking for clean skies, photovoltaic energy, wind power, waterfalls, windmills in the sea and geothermal energy. There is no going back: the government does what it says and the proof is this submarine cable, for which a great deal of work has been done”.
Hydroelectric plant in the municipality of Güímar
Torres also considered it very relevant that the President of Redeia, Beatriz Corredor, has today advanced the company’s commitment to the Canary Islands and, specifically, to Tenerife, with the municipality of Güímar as the most likely location for the hydroelectric plant on this island. “This is a major initiative because hundreds of millions of euros are needed, it involves environmental recovery and is key to the storage of renewable energies in Tenerife. We will continue to move forward” in the green transformation “with a clear vision and the horizon set on 2040, when all the energy on the islands must be renewable”.
The company Red Eléctrica (REE), a subsidiary of Redeia and responsible for the operation and transmission of electricity in Spain, has already started work on the new submarine link. This is a new interconnection between islands that will be decisive in guaranteeing the security of supply in La Gomera, enabling greater integration of renewable energies and achieving a reduction in overall generation costs by linking the electricity systems of both islands.
Thanks to this new link, which is scheduled to come into service in 2025, La Gomera will be able to generate and integrate a renewable quota greater than the island’s total demand, thereby reducing dependence on the El Palmar thermal power plant. Furthermore, thanks to the interconnection, the Tenerife system will be able to integrate surplus renewable generation from La Gomera, thereby reducing its dependence on fossil fuels and at the same time contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The project represents a firm step in the process of ecological transition in the Canary Islands, which aims to fully decarbonise its economy by 2040, ten years ahead of the targets set by Europe.
The importance of clean energy in isolated systems
The president of Redeia, Beatriz Corredor, highlighted the importance of this infrastructure at the event because of “its decisive role in advancing the ecological transition, with critical importance for isolated systems such as the Canary Islands, where energy autonomy is a guarantee of security for the system as a whole”.
In this regard, she valued the strategic role that Red Eléctrica is playing in this process in the autonomous community: “Our commitment to Canary Islands society is firm and long-lasting, as we have demonstrated with projects of great strategic importance such as the submarine link between Lanzarote and Fuerteventura or the reversible pumping station of Chira-Soria”.
The president of Redeia also wished to highlight the close relationship of collaboration that exists with the Canary Islands institutions, both in the processing of essential projects and in joint actions aimed at ensuring that “Red Eléctrica’s activity in these islands generates a positive impact on the population”. He highlighted projects of great social and environmental value in which the company participates, such as the renewed agreement for the prevention of fires; reforestation projects such as that of Chajaña, within the Corona Forestal natural park in Tenerife or the preparation of the Action Manual for the conservation of wildlife in Tenerife.
For his part, the Commissioner for the Promotion of Sustainable Energy in Island Systems, Marc Pons, pointed out that “the Spanish Government wants to make the archipelagos the spearhead of decarbonisation in our country. Territories on which to promote public-private initiatives that can be replicated on the continent with the aim of accelerating an energy transition that Spain is leading at European level and which cannot be reversed”. Pons added that “to achieve this, it is essential to understand the singularities of the islands while defining specific strategies and actions based on institutional agreement”.
A good example of this is, Pons said, “the funds of the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan (PRTR), with 700 million euros earmarked exclusively to promote actions that accelerate the energy transition of our islands or the nearly 2,000 million euros of the current planning of REE in the Canary Islands and Balearic Islands, with the aim of strengthening the transmission grid and thus advance in the guarantee and quality of supply”.
The president of the Island Council de La Gomera, Casimiro Curbelo, stressed that the start of the work brings the island closer to achieving the objectives set in terms of energy transition, in which this territory is working to promote the implementation of renewable energies and provide greater security to its current energy supply system. In this regard, he pointed out that, with the commissioning of the five wind farms next week, it will be possible to generate more energy than the island currently consumes and, thanks to the installation of the electricity interconnection, it will be possible to transport this surplus to Tenerife.
In his speech, the first vice-president of the Island Council of Tenerife and Minister for Innovation, Enrique Arriaga, highlighted “the effort that both administrations and companies have been making in recent years to reduce the carbon footprint” and valued “this work that Red Eléctrica is now undertaking”. “Leaving a more sustainable planet with fewer emissions is an obligation that all politicians have to society, and we must make a bold contribution to achieve it. To achieve this, we must not only implement green energy, but also promote research in this area”.
The mayoress of Guía de Isora, Josefa Mesa, stressed “that the future lies in projects like this, which are committed to sustainability and which will benefit the inhabitants of both islands and, therefore, the municipality of Guía de Isora, by promoting the use of renewable energies and a system which, in the long term, will reduce the overall costs of electricity generation”.
An ambitious installation adapted to the environment
This new strategic project is an ambitious challenge, given its technical complexity in both its terrestrial and submarine sections. No standard solutions have been applied, and all of them have been flexibly adapted to the reality of the territory from all points of view: social, technical and environmental.
The axis consists of a 66 kV double-circuit line, with a 36 km underwater section and two underground terrestrial sections on the islands of La Gomera and Tenerife, which will connect the future electrical substation of Chío (Tenerife) with the new electrical substation of El Palmar (La Gomera).
This is the deepest alternating three-pole submarine link in the world, which is why it has required a cable design adapted and reinforced with light materials capable of withstanding the demanding requirements of the environment in which it will be installed.
On the other hand, due to its length and complexity, the cable’s arrival on land on both islands has posed a challenge to ensure the protection of the biodiversity of the shallowest waters, given the unique nature of the volcanic soils, which are very heterogeneous. To this end, the technique of directional drilling has been used, which introduces the cable into the sea through a micro-tunnel with an exit hundreds of metres from the coast, eliminating any impact on the biological communities of the coastal drilling section.
In short, the route of the interconnection has been designed to minimise the impact on the landscape and to ensure maximum protection of the vegetation and fauna in the areas through which it passes.