Can Costa Rica Live Solely on Renewable Energy?
Costa Rica is said to be the world’s happiest country, perhaps this is due to the ever so high life expectancy, beautiful scenery, variety of wildlife or because of its biodiversity. We’d like to think it’s because the small nation have not burned any fossil fuels to generate electricity for over 400 days in the last couple of years. Instead their electricity is entirely generated from renewable energy sources and has been for over 76 consecutive days so far this year, with more still to come.
If Costa Rica is to continue using 100% renewable energy to generate electricity it will be on track to match the record set last year of 285 days.
How does Costa Rica Live Solely on Renewable Energy?
Due to its unique climate and terrain, Costa Rica have access to a multitude of renewable energy sources, most of which stem from hydropower and geothermal energy, with the assistance of wind, biomass and solar energy.
For years now, around 80% of the nation’s electricity has been sourced from hydroelectric dams, a technology that’s more than a century old. Unlike wind and solar farms, hydropower can run all hours of the day, making it more reliable.
As Costa Rica has a high rate of tropical rainfall and many large rivers, hydroelectric dams are most beneficial to them, as hydroelectric power is produced when water passes through the dam and into the river. The more water that passes through the dam, the more energy is produced.
Another 12% of Costa Rica’s electricity stems from geothermal power stations. These plants tap heat from the Earth’s crust in order to heat the water, or working fluid, that will be sent to the turbine where the thermal energy is converted into electricity. These geothermal plants became a very useful source during the severe drought Costa Rica faced in 2014 which left their hydroelectric dams suffering. Geothermal plants are, therefore, an essential back up to hydroelectric dams if a drought is to ever occur. With this in mind, the nation’s legislature have now approved a new $958 million geothermal plant.
The remainder of Costa Rica’s energy needs are supplied by wind power. Wind turbines are used in order to convert kinetic energy in the wind into mechanical power. This power can be used for a number of specific tasks such as pumping water or grinding grain, or a generator can be used to convert the mechanical power into electricity, making wind energy a useful source.
Along with sourcing renewable energy, Costa Rica have plans to become carbon neutral by 2021 and are aiming to be free from fossil fuels within the next five years.
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