A lot of people think that going “off-grid” is a good way to “go green”. In much of the world that is true. In the United States, for example, almost all of the electricity available from the national grid is produced by burning fossil fuels. If you use that electricity you are contributing to the continued use of fossil fuels and adding to your own personal carbon footprint. Because the grid is not clean in the United States it would be better for the environment to go off-grid and equip your home with solar panels to make energy during the daytime and a battery system to store some of that energy for use at night. Even though batteries are not environmentally friendly, the damage to the environment caused by recycling or disposal of those batteries would be less than the damage caused by use of electricity from the grid over the lifetime of the batteries.
In Costa Rica things are quite different. Because the national electrical grid has historically been 100% renewable a grid-tied solar system with no batteries is by far a “greener” alternative. Even now when our national grid is only 92% renewable the impact of disposal or even recycling of batteries is far worse for the environment. By contributing your excess solar energy production to Costa Rica’s clean grid during the daytime when demand is at its highest and using that energy at night when demand is low you are participating in a nearly perfect energy production and storage system. In the future when enough homes and businesses have installed solar arrays Costa Rica will be able to shut down the fossil fuel generators and once again claim that our national grid is powered 100% by renewable sources. You can be part of the solution in a very direct way by installing solar panels at your home or business and participating in Costa Rica’s net-metering program. Established in 2010, the net-metering program enables everyone to make their own free electricity from solar panels without the need for batteries. That’s the perfect way to “Go Green in Costa Rica”.
The financial benefits of utilizing solar power in Costa Rica are reason enough to invest in a renewable energy system for your home, but the benefits to the environment are enormous as well. Costa Rica was once able to boast that 100% percent of its electricity was produced without fossil fuels. Currently, however, about 8% comes from burning foreign oil and projections for future growth in demand may require that this number be as high as 28% by the year 2021. The result would be not only more carbon emmissions but also higher rates for electricity.
For these reasons the government has changed laws to embrace the distributed production of renewable energy, allowing you to become part of the solution instead of being part of the problem. The hope of lawmakers is that home and business solar systems might eventually produce 10% of the electricity needed in Costa Rica, but the real potential could me much greater. Production of the solar panels we sell and install requires a carbon output equivalent to the carbon reduction generated by those panels in only one year. After that first year your home can be producing solar electricity with NO carbon footprint at all for many, many years to come. Based on the size of the system and your driving habits it may be posible to counterbalance your carbon production entirely, thereby enabling you to live in this beautiful paradise in a truly carbon-neutral way. Once electric vehicles become more common in Costa Rica you’ll be able to plug your car into your solar powered home and not only eliminate your own carbon footprint but help to repair the damage caused by others.
Save the rainforests? Let’s! Each tree absorbs 48 pounds of carbon dioxide each year and converts it to life-sustaining oxygen through a process which is in part fueled by nature’s own solar power system, photosynthesis. Much of Costa Rica’s electricity comes from renewable sources, but even at current levels your home is probably responsible for more than a ton of carbon dioxide each year. Over the next 25 years you would need to plant 1,000 trees to equal the carbon reduction created by the installation of a 10 killowatt solar system on your home. If the amount of electricity produced by fossil fuels increases to 28% by 2021 as many fear it will the number of trees you need to plant goes up to 3,500. If you own enough land to plant 3,500 trees please do so, but install a solar energy system on your house anyway. That way when you get home from a long day of tree-planting you can relax in the air conditioning without having to pay a big electric bill.