Costa Rica explores geothermal power for clean energy
Along with the rest of the world, Costa Rica is actively exploring clean energy options that are sustainable and not harmful to the environment. Luckily, Costa Rica has many resources for energy – hydroelectric, wind turbine, geothermal, and now there are investigations into hydrogen energy.
Costa Rica currently produces about 90% of its electricity from mostly hydroelectric projects. However, hydroelectric power is weather-dependent, and during the driest months of summer it is stretched to its limits when water reserves are low. There is a plentiful resource however that is largely untapped – volcanic geothermal energy.
Geothermal power uses underground steam from volcanoes. The energy is harnessed by drawing hot water and steam from within the Earth’s crust, and then cooling it to move power turbines. An advantage of geothermal power is that it is continuously generated, and not dependent on weather conditions.
Costa Rica has plenty of volcanoes, and so far, the North Volcanic Mountain Ridge in the northwestern Guanacaste region has been ideal for geothermal power generation, with its Rincón de la Vieja, Miravalles and Tenorio volcanoes. The Miravalles Geothermal Field has been producing electricity since 1994, and the Pailas Geothermal Power Plant opened in July 2011 at the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano.
“Pailas” means cauldrons, and a hike in the Rincón de La Vieja National Park will show you why this 600,000-year-old volcano is so popular for geothermal energy; steam pours out of fumaroles, sulfur lagoons boil with minerals, and volcanic mud pits bubble and spit.
Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly currently is debating a bill that would allow exploration and production of geothermal energy inside the Rincón de la Vieja National Park. The Pailas Geothermal Power Plant is just outside the park’s boundaries.
When you visit Rincón de la Vieja Volcano, stay at Hotel Hacienda Guachipelín. Located just 10 minutes outside the Pailas section of the Rincón de la Vieja National Park, the first-class ecotourism lodge is a leading center for adventure and nature tours, on a working horse and cattle ranch.
By Shannon Farley