Costa Rica has always taken pride in its efforts to rely mostly on renewable energy sources. According to the Costa Rica Electricity Institute, the Central American nation was powered 285 days in 2015 fossil fuel-free.
Solar is the clean energy of the future, and more and more homes and businesses in Costa Rica are installing solar panels to reduce electricity costs and positively impact the environment. For remote locations not connected to the national electrical grid, solar energy is a godsend.
Veragua Rainforest Eco-Adventure is an ecotourism adventure and nature park, and scientific research facility, situated less an hour from the port of Limon in the central Caribbean mountains of Costa Rica. A private rainforest reserve, it is 3.5 km from the nearest public utility electrical poles and 12 km from any main road. The fact that Veragua Rainforest can now operate almost solely using clean energy, thanks to its newly installed solar energy power system is an incredible feat.
“The engineers and suppliers tell us this is a jewel of a project,” said Veragua owner Marti Jimenez. “This will give us for the first time 24-7 electricity from clean energy and a quiet ambiance, along with two back-up systems of the solar batteries and our diesel generator, which up to now had been our only source of energy.”
Due to Veragua’s remote location, they have depended on a diesel generator system the past eight years to supply all of the electricity at the eco-tourism park and research facility. Not only is the generator extremely costly, it is not eco-friendly, said Jimenez.
“Diesel was contaminating, very expensive, and risky for business operations in case the generator broke,” said Jimenez. “Our solar energy project is a huge milestone because we finally have a renewable source of energy.”
Since Mar. 1, the new solar micro-network at Veragua functions like a small version of the country's electrical grid, powering all of the lights, air-conditioning, kitchen equipment and research laboratory, and reducing by 90% Veragua’s dependence on its diesel generator.
Just counting the hours once used to run a diesel generator for power, Veragua Rainforest Eco-Adventure will save annually the equivalent of the average amount of gas that 80 cars burn in a month, said Jimenez. Additionally, in the past, Veragua would have to limit the number of hours that they used electricity, whereas now they have energy 24 hours.
Distributed around the property on top of three key buildings, 176 photovoltaic solar panels transform the sun’s energy as the main source of power at Veragua. The system has a battery bank for storing electrical energy so that it can mitigate the effect of cloud cover and rainy days and eliminate power shortages. If the solar energy reserves run out, they can always fire up the diesel generator to help in a pinch, said Jimenez.
Veragua’s approximately $160,000 solar energy system is a benchmark for off-grid businesses. “We are taking a lead with our mini-grid system and encourage other remote tourism businesses to do the same,” said Jimenez.
Veragua Rainforest Eco-Adventure is one of the top things to do by Limon, Costa Rica and is a very popular shore excursion for visiting cruise ships. Bordering the renowned La Amistad International Park, Veragua features adventure activities like zip lining, hiking and an aerial tram, and fascinating one-of-a-kind native wildlife exhibits.
Article by Shannon Farley