Solar Future For Costa Rica

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Hola, Mis Amigos y Lectores,

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Can’t resist after a period of bathing under the Costa Rican sunshine and pura vida (pure living/life).  To this peace-loving country (Costa Rica had constitutionally abolished its army permanently in 1949), my memory of Costa Rica may be summed up by this photo, relaxed with thoughts of pura vida, under the Guanacaste (Enterolobium cyclocarpum),

relaxed below the Guanacaste tree (elephant ear tree), Enterolobium cyclocarpum (national tree of Costa Rica), with thoughts of pura vida

the elephant ear tree

Guanacaste seedpod in shape of elephant or human ear, wikimedia commons

, the National tree of Costa Rica. Here, I want to write a piece for all those wonderfully friendly people I’ve encountered and friends I’ve met…even for the future baby (that will be named Sol (Sun in Spanish/Latin)) of our taxi driver and of Nashley of our lady friend working in the hotel…for the beautiful present and future Costa Rican generations.

In Costa Rica, expats and locals alike, are all concerned about their carbon footprint in one of the world’s most beautiful, natural, and tropical locations.  Please allow me to share this clip of various beautiful sights of Costa Rica, below:


Since Costa Rica intends to become the first carbon neutral country by the year 2021, converting to solar energy is one way of helping to reduce the carbon footprint. Due to its natural gift of mountainous terrains and generous supply of rainfall/water, it is understandable why hydroelectric  is the primary source of its  national power.  In 2011, Costa Rica produced about 4% of its power from wind farms and 73% from hydroelectric plants in its power-generation expansion plan for the period 2012-2024 and no new fossil fuel plants are planned after 2015. Solar Energy can definitely help to fill the gap.

 

Mis Amigos, did you know that Costa Rica has moved forward and approved the grid connection to allow solar systems (and renewable and hydro and wind systems) to connect and feed power to ICE (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad), Costa Rica’s state power utility, so that Costa Ricans can sell electricity they produce to ICE ?  Recent price increases in electrical power supply by ICE has business and home owners nation-wide weighing the economics of switching to solar.

Here are some simple tricks (quoted from the www.prlog.org) to help make your (Costa Ricans’) transition to solar power as efficient as possible, also listed below:

1)   Plan for a DC refrigerator.  They use only 5% of the energy required by conventional AC fridges.  It is less expensive to switch refrigerators than to buy the panels needed to operate conventional AC fridges.  They are chest style for efficiency, so it is a bit of a lifestyle adjustment.

2)   For mid-sized homes, keep the household in 110 volt appliances to keep your power inversion system down to a single inverter (Outback, preferably) and your charging source in balance with your demand without having to spend exorbitantly on your panel array.  This means a hybrid clothes dryer so that the heating can be done by propane rather than commit to a 4500-watt 220 volt conventional clothes dryer’s exorbitant power demand.

3)   Cook with gas.

4)   Heat water with passive solar hot water heaters.  They are expensive but with no moving parts are permanent and have relatively short payback periods.  If you absolutely must have steaming hot water on demand no matter what, then connect solar hot water heaters to conventional gas hot water heaters.  This active hybrid configuration will save up to 80% on water heating costs over conventional hot water heaters alone.

5)   If your means permit and your economic commitment to energy independence is paramount, then deploy more panels, greater battery capacity, and a second inverter (or a stack of as many as ten inverters in multiples of two) to include 220 volt appliances for cooking and hot water heating and clothes drying to eliminate fossil fuel altogether, excepting perhaps an emergency backup generator.

Costa Rica does not charge import tariffs on alternative energy supplies.  Equipment purchased in the US or EU pays only 13% sales tax upon importation to Costa Rica (plus shipping, of course), so home owners are not obligated to pay the high prices of in-country retail suppliers.  With technology’s rapid advance and Costa Rica’s generous permissive import policies, it usually makes sense to order the latest alternative energy equipment direct from volume suppliers to get the best deals and cut out the middle man altogether or to negotiate the best possible terms from the installer that you have settled on for your application.

For homeowners or developers with deep pockets, absolute carbon neutrality at the domestic level is easily within reach.  And even for budget systems, the increase in ICE rates and decrease in solar power equipment costs makes the payback period less and less every year.  Until grid-tie power trading is legislated, however, the capital costs of a solar power system will not compare attractively for locations with access to the grid except at payback periods of usually ten years or more.  The abundance of high-end remote homes ensures that even without grid-tie legislation, alternative energy will always be a vital part of the nation’s overall power platform and arguably the best option in all of Costa Rica’s most beautiful places.

I will look forward to many more solar installations/panels/PV’s next time I visit there.

~have a bright and sunny day~

Gathered, written, and posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker

Any comments and suggestions are welcomed at sunisthefuture@gmail.com

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One Response to “Solar Future For Costa Rica”

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