Solar energy in Costa Rica and other alternative energy sources for your home

Expats and locals alike, are all concerned about their carbon footprint in Costa Rica, one of the world's most beautiful, natural and tropical locations. Converting to solar energy is one way of 'helping' reduce this footprint.
By: SellingCR - Costa Rica News
July 1, 2009 - PRLog -- Costa Rica intends to become the first carbon neutral country by the year 2021.  In 2008 oil contributed only 8% of the nation’s total electrical power generation capacity.  Hydroelectric is the primary (81%) source of national power.  Wind contributes the same percentage as oil, 8%.  Geothermal adds the remaining 3%, and solar contributes less than one tenth of one percent of the nation’s power generation capacity.  This year the nation took steps in the legislature to simplify its Gordian knot of permitting requirements for small-scale hydroelectric providers, signaling a readiness for widespread micro-hydroelectric approvals.  Costa Rica has a decade-long thrust to expand its wind power industry to ever increasing relevance, even as the nation’s hallmark alternative energy platform, geothermal power, has dropped its national contribution from a high of 10% of the total domestic power supply in the early nineties to its nominal 3% contribution today.  Despite the actual insignificance of solar power to the national power grid, the nation’s aggressive position on carbon neutrality virtually assures changes in the law that will make possible energy trading on a micro-scale and dramatically increase the relevance of alternative energy to the overall domestic power budget and solar power in particular.  This is the only rational path to a balanced national carbon budget.

For more articles on the subject of Alternative Energy in Costa Rica, please visit:

Alternative energy systems are costly—solar, hydro, and wind alike—so where grid power is available, the payback period for a domestic installation may be ten years or more.  While the economics don’t apply to remote off-grid home owners that have no choice other than a noisy, operationally costly fossil fuel generator, recent price increases for electrical power supply by ICE has businesses and home owners nation-wide weighing the economics of switching to solar. More and more *new* residents to Costa Rica are discovering that solar cells for independent electricity production is a viable option for those of them who recently purchased land and are planning on new construction. One company offering advice on buying Costa Rica real estate and providing advice and direction in construction options is BuyingCR ( which is located in the Southern Zone of Costa Rica near Dominical.

Some simple tricks to make your transition to solar power as efficient as possible:

1)   Plan for a DC refrigerator.  They use only 5% of the energy required by conventional AC fridges.  It is less expensive to switch refrigerators than to buy the panels needed to operate conventional AC fridges.  They are chest style for efficiency, so it is a bit of a lifestyle adjustment.  
2)   For mid-sized homes, keep the household in 110 volt appliances to keep your power inversion system down to a single inverter (Outback, preferably) and your charging source in balance with your demand without having to spend exorbitantly on your panel array.  This means a hybrid clothes dryer so that the heating can be done by propane rather than commit to a 4500-watt 220 volt conventional clothes dryer’s exorbitant power demand.

3)   Cook with gas.

4)   Heat water with passive solar hot water heaters.  They are expensive but with no moving parts are permanent and have relatively short payback periods.  If you absolutely must have steaming hot water on demand no matter what, then connect solar hot water heaters to conventional gas hot water heaters.  This active hybrid configuration will save up to 80% on water heating costs over conventional hot water heaters alone.

5)   If your means permit and your economic commitment to energy independence is paramount, then deploy more panels, greater battery capacity, and a second inverter (or a stack of as many as ten inverters in multiples of two) to include 220 volt appliances for cooking and hot water heating and clothes drying to eliminate fossil fuel altogether, excepting perhaps an emergency backup generator.

Costa Rica does not charge import tariffs on alternative energy supplies.  Equipment purchased in the US or EU pays only 13% sales tax upon importation to Costa Rica (plus shipping, of course), so home owners are not obligated to pay the high prices of in-country retail suppliers.  With technology’s rapid advance and Costa Rica’s generous permissive import policies, it usually makes sense to order the latest alternative energy equipment direct from volume suppliers to get the best deals and cut out the middle man altogether or to negotiate the best possible terms from the installer that you have settled on for your application.  

For homeowners or developers with deep pockets, absolute carbon neutrality at the domestic level is easily within reach.  And even for budget systems, the increase in ICE rates and decrease in solar power equipment costs makes the payback period less and less every year.  Until grid-tie power trading is legislated, however, the capital costs of a solar power system will not compare attractively for locations with access to the grid except at payback periods of usually ten years or more.  The abundance of high-end remote homes ensures that even without grid-tie legislation, alternative energy will always be a vital part of the nation’s overall power platform and arguably the best option in all of Costa Rica’s most beautiful places.

For more information on the systems mentioned in this article, please visit or call us at 506 2735-5702

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SellingCR is an internet portal site specializing in content and news relating to the south Pacific areas of Costa Rica. Special focus on areas like Dominical, Uvita, Jaco, Perez Zeledon and more...
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