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Distributed Generation Solar Energy Returns to Costa Rica


Solar energy in Costa Rica has been stalled for more than a year. This week the pricing for applications and net metering has been announced by Coopeguanacaste, one of the companies that supplies electricity in Costa Rica. Solar power will move forward with a larger share of the renewable energy portfolio of Costa Rica. With abundant sunshine, it will be a great compliment to wind power, hydro, and geothermal power.

Distributed Generation Solar Energy Returns to Costa Rica
San Rafael, Alajuela, Costa Rica, April 07, 2016 --(PR.com)-- Renewable energy in Costa Rica has been on the world stage recently with President Solis announcing to the U.N. that other countries should follow Costa Rica towards a renewable energy powered society. Higher than average rainfall in the Norther Zone last year allowed the government owned power company, I.C.E., to produce electricity with renewable energy for 285 days. With hydro power making up 63% of the installed capacity, in a normal year the bunker fuel burning plants that make up 22% of the installed capacity will be getting much more use. Solar energy has expanded to only 0.06% of the installed capacity with the Pilot Program offered by I.C.E. That 10 MW program was fully subscribed last year in March. Because of this the solar industry has been stalled while Aresep, the regulating agency, determined new pricing for a permanent distributed generation program. The net metering prices have been established and published for the various power companies in Costa Rica last week.

Coopeguanacaste, the rural electric co-op that has been supplying power to much of the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica since 1982, is being proactive on producing power for their grid with distributed generation, or rooftop solar. They have set their prices and published the procedures for applying for net metering of distributed generation solar arrays on their website. This is in anticipation of the requirement to do so by April 8.

Solar Costa Rica, a solar energy and energy efficiency company, has been installing self-consumption solar arrays in the Coopeguancaste territory since 2004. “We are pleased with the program Coopeguanacaste has set forward for applying for and operating a net metering solar array within their territory,” said Jon Harrington, President of Solar Costa Rica. “We have had many meetings with their Generation Department engineers over the past few years. They have been progressive in wanting customers to install solar to take pressure off the mid-day loads. The use of air conditioners and other appliances in the middle of the day tax the existing infrastructure. Add to that the high price Coopeguanacaste pays ICE for power during the midday peak, and solar make sense for the consumer and the power company.”

The link to the instructions for the Coopeguanecaste application are now available on their user friendly website, coopguanacaste.com.

Although they do not have the English language version on their website as of yet. There is an explanation of the program and how to apply located in the Spanish version.

Minae also has the permit application interconnect agreement available online to be used for any applying with any of the Costa Rica power companies.

The website application process looks very easy to use in a country where excessive paperwork and long waits in line is common. Applications can be filled out by the consumer. However one would have to hire a professional to engineer the design and a knowledgeable company to install the system to meet NEC Code requirements.

The price structure set forward by Coopeguanacaste appear favorable for customers to now install solar systems to power their entire home. It is no longer necessary to go solar by isolating the solar array from the grid with expensive systems like solar air conditioners or solar pool pumps. And if a customer still wants to only supply power for self consumption, it is still an option for large energy users with no permit necessary.

Ing. Jose Sandoval Arce, the director of Solar Costa Rica's engineering department has been in touch with the engineers at Coopeguanacaste the past two weeks. He received the following price guidelines that will be published in La Gazette later this week:

Viability study - they will come out and inspect the property to see if the project will be possible to install in a safe and code compliant manner. - 11.000 Colones

Installation of two meters. One will replace the original meter with a bi-directional meter. The other meter is for the solar array to determine how much electricity the solar array produces. - 49.000 Colones plus the cost of the two meters. Each meter is expected to cost about - 15.000 Colones. This also includes the final inspection at the time of meter installation.

Re-inspection required because of failure to comply with NEC Code - 6.000 Colones

"The total cost to the solar customer upfront is 90.000 Colones if the system passes inspection the first time," according to Arce. “This is a very reasonable cost for the customer who is going solar, as they will be producing free power once the system is installed for decades to come. And there are banks now that offer low interest loans for solar. That will allow the customer to sign for a loan and pay less than they pay the power company from day one with no money down.”

The other net metering payments the power company will receive over the 25 – 50 year lifetime of the solar array were published in La Gazette recently. For Coopeguanacaste customers that will be 21 Colones for each kWh the meter spins backwards. That can be compared to 28 Colones that ICE will charge. This charge is only for power produced in the daytime that is not immediately used. Any power your solar array makes and you use instead of sending to the grid will not have the net metering charge. It will instead save the average residential customer the normal charge of 97 Colones they would pay to take that kWh from the grid. For net metered electricity that is sent to the grid in the daytime and then used at night, the combined cost/savings will be 76 Colones per kWh. For small commercial users the charge for grid power is 102 Colones, so they could save even more.

“We are very excited to see the power companies comply with the new net metering program,” said Harrington. “It has been difficult for this new industry to gain traction here in Costa Rica. But with the mainstay hydro power being slightly risky, solar will be a great addition to the energy mix. Let's put those oil burning power plants to rest.”

The remainder of power companies have also had the per kWh net metering prices published in La Gazette. The next publication of La Gazette will have the price they will charge for the application and meter installation charges. If they are similar to the prices announced by Coopeguanacaste, Costa Rica residents and visitors will be able to power their homes and businesses with the abundant sunshine that falls on this tropical country.
Contact Information
Solar Costa Rica
Jon Harrington
506 2244 6369
Contact
solarcostarica.com
US VOIP Phone 970-817-5821

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