The rural water administrator in San Rafael, Alajuela, has started the second solar-powered water well project after receiving better than expected results from the solar installation at water tank Victor Jiménez. The Jiménez well has had a reduction in the electric bill of almost $2,000 per month average.
The Asociación del Acueducto de Agua in San Rafael approved the first solar-powered municipal water well project in Central America in 2015. With an expectation of a $6 million reduction in payments for energy over the 25-year power production guarantee, the board of directors felt it was a worthwhile project financially and environmentally. San Rafael, home of Ojo del Agua, prides itself on environmental stewardship.
“Upon monitoring the installation of 140 solar PV panels at the tank, our projections proved to be conservative compared to the actual returns of this energy efficiency and solar electric installation.” said Jon Harrington, president of Solar Costa Rica, “We feel this is one more step at bringing Costa Rica to the lead in environmentally responsible energy.”
“The engineering staff at Solar Costa Rica first considered using grid-tied solar electricity to produce the power the well needs to operate. With energy consumption of 7,000 to 12,000 kilowatt hours per month and only so much area for solar panels, it became obvious a solar array would be too large for the area and too costly to produce the power the 40-horsepower well pump needed to operate.” Jose Sandoval Arce, a company engineer, was given the task of determining how motor control, demand management, pressure sensing controls and solar energy in combination could accomplish the goals of reducing energy consumption and producing enough energy to cover the remaining need.
A bonus with this type of integrated approach is that the well pump motor will also have a much longer service life. This system eases demand peaks and power factor problems on the electrical grid helping the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad manage their grid with less infrastructure. The fact that solar photovoltaic systems produce clean sine wave electricity is another bonus. Electricity in the grid sometimes fluctuates causing issues with electronics and motors. Motors run smoother on clean energy, and with less vibration it also makes the motor last longer.
“Having operated during the green season so far, we expect even greater returns as the dry season and more sunshine returns. Even with the pump running full power, the solar panels are producing more than it needs in the middle of the day,” said Arce. “Pumping water uses a lot of electricity. And making that energy by the sun only makes sense. It means that we really are producing clean water.”
“With the new POASEN law nearing publication and enforcement, it should open the floodgates to more clean water,” said Harrington. “While traveling in the mountains last month I was dismayed to visit a 90-meter waterfall that is soon to be shut off. It is destined to be dried up by diversion to yet another hydro electric generator. The majority of Costa Rica’s renewable energy is hydro power. It is time we take responsibility for our energy addictions and invest in clean solutions that do not harm the environment.” POASEN is the law for planning, operation and access to the national electrical system.
“The reality is that it will be difficult to keep the energy mix as green in Costa Rica as we are now. With a 4.7 percent increase in demand each year, the energy has to come from somewhere. We were blessed with an abundance of rain last year in the hydro-power generating areas of Costa Rica. Last year we showed the world we could be almost completely renewable in the electricity sector. It is time for solar energy to step up as yet another renewable producer in our energy mix.” said Harrington.
With the new law coming close to reality, Costa Rica businesses and residents will have their opportunity to produce electricity in a clean, responsible manner. Add to that the plans for integrating hybrid and electric cars into the transportation sector, and Costa Rica has the opportunity to honestly become the model for a carbon neutral nation.
* This article came from Solar Costa Rica.