Geothermal energy development in Costa Rica

Geothermal energy is already one of the most important energy sources in Costa Rica. This country in Central America set a goal of achieving 95 percent of the country’s energy come from renewable sources by 2014 - whether this goal will be achieved or not will be seen very shortly (the latest reports claimed that the country currently obtains around 92% of energy from renewables). Nonetheless, geothermal energy is the second most important renewable energy source in the country, behind the hydropower.

The first geothermal power plant in the country became operational in 1994 with the capacity of 60 MW. Today, the total installed geothermal power capacity is said to be 217.5 MW. Total geothermal potential in Costa Rica is far greater, and many volcanic geothermal energy resources in the country still remain largely untapped.

One of the more interesting latest reports says that Costa Rica plans to harness the power of the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano for three new geothermal projects. It was announced that the Japanese International Cooperation Agency agreed to extend Costa Rica a $560 million loan needed to build three geothermal power plants near the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano in the northwestern province of Guanacaste.

The total capacity of these three new geothermal power plants, once completed, will be 165 MW.  It was also reported that the new geothermal power plants would generate the lowest cost electricity in the country, at 5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

There are still some environmental concerns over geothermal energy extraction in Rincón de la Vieja National Park and there is also a law that prohibits the extraction of resources from national parks, meaning that the Legislative Assembly still needs to review the project during upcoming extraordinary sessions. The lawmakers can solve this by modifying park boundaries and add territory somewhere else to compensate, or can even choose the reform the National Parks Law.

Goethermal energy is clean, renewable energy source that is very reliable, and unlike solar and wind does not suffer from intermittency issue, meaning it operates 24-7, 365 days a year. However, the 11,000-hectare Rincón de la Vieja National Park and the neighboring Guanacaste Conservation Area have been declared a “World Heritage Site” by the United Nations which means that the government of Costa Rica needs to find the right solution to ensure sustainable geothermal energy development in the country.
Geothermal energy development in Costa Rica Geothermal energy development in Costa Rica Reviewed by Lorine Wyman on November 28, 2013 Rating: 5

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