Madeira and the Canary Islands, first stops on the four sailors’ pursuit of tomorrow's renewables

Posted on 18 May 2020.
On September 1st 2019, four young French engineers set sail with an ambition on a par with the challenges our planet is facing: support access to energy in areas struggling with energy shortages and promote renewables.
Charlotte de Fouquières, Côme Houdeville, Paul Thomé and Camille de Veyrac are convinced that green energy can help raise entire populations out of poverty. Hence their plan to sail around the Atlantic to better understand and promote these technologies.
Several months after setting sail from Brittany, a look back at the first discoveries of the “4 matelots pleins d’énergie” (4 energetic sailors) – an apt name for their project.
Their renewable energy explorations started in Madeira. It would be difficult to find a better place than the Portuguese island of Porto Santo – its ambition is to stop consuming fossil fuels – not even a drop!
Renault and the energy company EEM are testing a brand new model. The idea is to use electric vehicles to store the surplus electricity produced from renewable sources.
In concrete terms, when people plug in a vehicle, they either recharge their car battery or they feed energy directly into the island's electricity grid if the renewable sources aren’t producing enough. It’s the principle behind the two-way battery that equips each car.
Cars are then able to solve the major problem of green technologies: their irregularity, because they depend on changeable factors such as the wind or the sun.
Porto Santo is not the only island to attempt to overcome this hurdle. Their eco-responsible journey continued on to the small Canary island of El Hierro.
The island is not linked to the national power grid, but the Canary Islands Technological Institute has embarked on a promising wind energy project. To overcome the problems of the irregularity of the energy produced by wind turbines, local researchers have designed an innovative electricity storage system. Called pumped hydroelectric energy storage (PHES), it coordinates the island's five wind turbines with the hydropower plant. The island's dam acts as a backup battery, whenever the wind turbines are not operating. The El Hierro authorities' ultimate goal is to become a 100% renewable energy island. A true circular economy model.
On the strength of their discoveries, the four sailors then set sail again for a long crossing, heading for Senegal. There, the young French sailors will be installing electricity in the health center in Moundé using solar panels and batteries. 
The stakes are high. To help the village’s healthcare professionals provide care and store medicines for longer.
Watch this space!  

CREDIT: Main picture © Les 4 Matelots