Thursday, 26 March 2015

Costa Rica Demonstrates Potential of Renewable Energy

The holy grail of renewable energy research is proving that significant energy needs can be met exclusively through renewable sources for extended amounts of time.  The Central American nation of Costa Rica has indeed gone a long way in that endeavour, having used no fossil fuels for electrical generation since December 2014.

News reports say Costa Rica has been using 100% renewable energy thanks to unusually heavy rainfall since the start of the year.  As of March 22, four hydroelectric plants had powered the entire nation for 75 straight days.  Those numbers come from the Costa Rican Electricity Institute.

A hydroelectric plant generates power by utilising running water to move turbines that create electricity.  It is a simple concept that has been in use for decades. Costa Rica is a perfect environment for hydroelectric because of its extremely rugged and mountainous terrain.  Water flowing from the mountains provides a natural source of turbine-driving energy as it flows downhill.

Even before the heavy rains of 2015, Costa Rica had been making great strides in renewable energy production.  In 2014, some 80% of the nation's energy was produced using hydroelectric means.  An additional 10% came from geothermal applications.  According to the numbers, 94% of all energy consumed in Costa Rica is produced using renewable strategies.

Government leaders and energy producers are thrilled with the success of hydroelectric in their country, but they are not resting on it.  Hundreds of millions of pounds were committed to geothermal development last year, with significant consideration being given to using the nation's volcanic geology to its advantage.  That's good, say experts, because changes in rainfall can drastically affect hydroelectric power production and management.  Costa Rica intends to design and build more geothermal power plants that will produce energy even in seasons of inadequate rainfall.

Using What Is Naturally Available

The exciting thing about what is happening in Costa Rica is that they are utilising what is naturally available.  In Central America, rain falls in abundance during several periods throughout the year so it makes sense to develop renewable energy strategies that take advantage of that.  In the same vein, establishing large wind farms off the English and Scottish coasts to harness the wind which is in plentiful supply year-round is immensely practical.

Whether we are discussing renewable energy for the data centre or an entire nation of nearly 5 million people, the idea is to put into play what nature naturally provides for the purposes of power generation.  When we do that, we are reducing dependence on fossil fuels and cutting emissions at the same time.

The world could learn an example from Costa Rica and its commitment to renewable energy.  Not only is it aggressively developing geothermal and hydroelectric solutions, but the country has also chosen not to tap into oil supplies known to be in the Caribbean region.  Costa Rica is providing an excellent model for responsible and sustainable energy that will lead the world into the future.

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