Alternative energy in Costa Rica: solar energy status.

After visiting the latest edition of the Construction Fair several days ago, something got me thinking…why there´s so many companies offering solar water heaters and not so many offer  photovoltaic  systems to generate electricity despite the fact that solar energy will become a more economically attractive energy source in the future?

Since many of you have showed interest on sustainable solutions for building your own home in Costa Rica, I decided to do a quick research about the solar energy market and what is Costa Rica´s government doing about subsidies.

There are 2 different scenarios if you wanted to go green and buy a solar energy system: one would be buying a solar water heater that can provide you with hot instant water in your shower, pool or kitchen. And two would be buying a hybrid or full solar thin film photovoltaic system.

For option number one there are about 10 or more companies offering residential water heaters in between $1100 and $1850 aproximately per equipment. Prices vary upon the device´s construction materials quality, either if they are imported or asemblied in Costa Rica,if installation is included or not and warranty. Companies guarantee savings of 30% in your electricity bill. Expect a financial recovery of 2 to 3 years.

Option number two may only include just one company installing full photovoltaic system that requires a long term recovery. We are talking about 10 years or more….

But what keeps us so individual?

Why aren´t we moving towards grid party systems?

Because the sector is in it´s infancy. Despite the fact that water heaters need almost perfect solar conditions, and there´s no such net metering structure provided by local electricity entities ,I see how people are still eager about solar energy.

If Costa Rica´s government could only accept the project for changing the Energy Law which just allows our biggest electricity generator company ,ICE, to buy no more than 15% of power generated by others…then we would be on the way of really driving down the cost of electricity.

Despite this situation , there are some efforts being made in the public sector. Costa Rica is starting to write it´s own story on moving towards alternative energy resources.

Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad has a pilot project in which they install a double way metering system. For example if a house spends 500 kilowatts a month, ICE will deduct no more then 300 kilowatts from your bill, allowing you to pay for only 200 kilowatts in this case.

Lately at Coopeguanacaste, there´s the possibility of renting solar panels if you live on an isolated area, and Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz announced last May that they will be installing solar panels over 500 roofs under a pilot project financed by the company.Check the news:

http://www.nacion.com/2011-05-17/ElPais/NotasSecundarias/ElPais2780313.aspx

Looking for national energy independence is quite a quest for many countries, although Costa Rica is rich with renewable energies. Not only solar energy can be an option, but wind, sugarcane waste burning, geothermal and biomass can help lower the dependence to hydroelectricity . Don´t hesitate on dropping a line if you want me to help you find out in your lot area, about alternative energy resources for your next Tropical Modern house design.

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