The power company, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, is spending $650,000 to beef up its monitoring of lightning strikes.
The company said that new detectors will enhance the range from 360 kilometers to 1,400 kilometers, about 890 miles. Detectors have been added at Liberia, San Carlos, Buenos Aires, Quepos and Limón. The additional devices will enhance the reporting from the system that has been in service since 2002.
The company known as ICE has good reason to know the location, intensity and exact time of a lightning strike. One reason is that power line planners want to know where the hotspots are so they can make design adjustments. Those operating radio base stations also find the information useful in the protection of their equipment, ICE said.
The upgraded system is supposed to detect 90 percent of the lightning strikes to earth and 30 percent of the lightning that goes from cloud to cloud or within the same cloud, the company said.
The company says it can narrow down the location of a lightning strike to less than 150 meters, some 490 feet.
All the information goes into a data base at a central location where the strikes are monitored in real time.
Guanacaste, Alajuela, Heredia, Pococí, Esparza, Orotina, Quepos, Guácima, Buenos Aires de Puntarenas and Golfito are the areas with the highest incidence of lightning, said ICE.
The system has allowed the company to say with precision that in 2012 there were 600,000 lightning strikes in Costa Rica. The firm added that the day with the most strikes was April 27, 2011, when the system counted 20,000. The most intense strike measured 250 kilo amperes, enough juice to light 250,000 100-watt bulbs, the company said.
The manufacturer of the new devices that have been added is Vaisala of Finland, a recognized maker of environmental measurement equipment.