Tuesday, December 29th: Tilaran and Arenal
To start the day the group will be touring the ICE facilities (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad). Here we will be learning about the life cycle of energy systems, and more specifically about how ICE is supplying energy to the people of Costa Rica through hydroelectric power as well as wind power. For some background about ICE, they were started in 1948 after the Costa Rican civil war to help combat energy shortage problems the country once faced. Currently the company produces about 2000 mega watts which is roughly 79% of the total energy production of Costa rica (Electricidad, ICE).
(The hydroelectric system at Arenal)
Looking specifically at hydroelectric power we can see that this plays a major role in the total energy production in Costa Rica. In total hydroelectric power account for about 78% of the total energy produced by ICE (Information from Herman at Arenal). The first hydroelectric dam constructed in Costa Rica is the Cachi arch dam. This plant uses the tradition system of using gravity and water to turn turbines to generate energy. The dam is feed water from the man made reservoir called lake Cachi. This dam not only provides a means of power generation but also flood control and a source of drinking water as well. This system uses three turbines to produce 34 MW of power each which is then feed into the main power grid (Lake Cachi, Wikipedia). The hydroelectric dams we will be visiting tomorrow are arenal, corobici and sandillal. These three combined dams produce most of the hydroelectric power in Costa Rica and a very efficient in the way they produce power. These dams are connected in series going from Arenal to Corobici and finally to Sandillal. The first hydroelectric dam, Arenal uses three hydroelectric power generators each producing 52.4 MW of power. The second hydro plant also utilizes three generators producing 58 MW. The last and smallest hydroelectric plant uses only two generators to produce 15.96 MW each (Estudio de factibilidad Modernización Arenal, Groupo ICE). Even though the hydroelectric power in Costa Rica is considered “sustainable” it can also have its draw backs. In the case of the Arenal, the construction of the dam displaced many families from the area however ICE did pay to relocate these people. Another issue that can arise from introducing dams is the potential of disrupting wildlife such as fish populations which can hinder the flow of there migration (Salmon of the west, U.S. fish and wildlife). A diagram of how hydroelectric power is generated can be seen below in figure 1.1.
(Figure 1.1 how power is generated from hydro electric dams)
The class learning at Arenal hydroelectric dam
(Wind turbines visited)
ICE also is invested in power generated though the use of wind turbines. Currently wind power accounts for an amazing 7% of the total power produced by ICE (costa rica to double wind power generations in coming years, L. Arais). Many of these wind turbines are located in Tilaran and were actually visible from the road on the ride into the hotel. ICE’s wind turbine project in Tilaran has about 33 wind turbines in the 16 hector area. These wind turbines produce about 20 MW with a cost of about $250,000 each (Parque eolico de chiripa en tilaran, Diego Bosque). However a major flaw in the design in the first wind turbines in this location is that they are not able to rotate to better capture the wind thus losing out on potential power production. Another drawback of wind energy being debated is the possible interruption to flying animals such as birds that wind turbines can have (disadvantages of wind power, Washington DNR). The way that these turbines work can be seen below in figure 2.1.
(Figure 2.1 power cycle from wind generation)
To finish the day, the group will be traveling to Eduardo’s home for BBQ and to discuss what we have observed and learned from the day. We will also be doing a little dancing with the help of Juan Pablo.
The class learning some dance moves over dinner
- Diego Bosque, 12/15/2015, Parque eolico de chiripa en tilaran
- Groupo ICE, 12/29/2015, Estudio de factibilidad Modernización Arenal
- Groupo ICE, 12/4/2015, Electricidad
- L. Arias, 11/17/2015, Costa Rica to double wind power generation in coming years
- U.S. fish and wildlife services, 12/29/2015, Salmon of the west
- Washington DNR, 12/29/2015, Disadvantages of wind power
- Wikipedia, 10/6/2015, Lake Cachi