CNN Photos

An ‘everlasting island’

Located in the southwest corner of Spain's Canary Islands is an environmentalist utopia called El Hierro.

The island is now completely renewable energy self-sufficient.

French photographer Benjamin Béchet traveled to El Hierro to document the breathtaking landscape of the island, the people and the technology that helps keep the island green.

UNESCO designated the volcanic island as a biosphere reserve in 2000, but the islanders and their mayor, David Cabrera, have been making sustainable energy efforts since the 1970s, according to Béchet.

"This island is the most protected and least touristy of the Canary Islands," Béchet said on the phone from Marseilles.

With the smaller traffic volume through the island, and funding from the European Union and Spain, El Hierro developed hybrid power stations that produce energy solely from wind and water. Because of its successful efforts at sustainability, Béchet refers to El Hierro as the “everlasting island.”

The five wind turbines on the 104-square-mile island produce three times the needed energy for its inhabitants and infrastructure, meaning the rest of the energy will eventually be dispersed to the surrounding islands, Béchet said.

The general reception to this big undertaking has been mixed.

Younger people are more involved in the project because it has made the island more noticeable.

However, other islanders are afraid of the continuing project because they fear the project might be too big for them.

"They don't know if it's going to work because a project like this has never been done," Béchet said.

With a population of roughly 10,500, it is a place where "everybody knows everybody" and where "tradition is quite, quite strong," he said.

Those steeped in the traditions of the island fear that with this new sustainability and potential larger tourism draw, the old ways of life may be lost, Béchet said.

Despite the fear of too much change, overall the islanders are enthusiastic about the new sources of energy.

As beautiful and mythical as El Hierro sounds, Béchet's biggest challenge was photographing the landscape.

"It's a high contrast island," Béchet said, explaining that he had to pick specific times he could shoot and get the results he wanted.

His patience resulted in an ethereal collection that depicts nature, culture and technology in harmony.

- Clint Alwahab, CNN