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Power

Costa Rica Has Gone 76 Straight Days Using 100% Renewable Electricity (vox.com) 226

Last year, Costa Rica powered itself using only renewable energy for 75 days. It has topped that feat this year. Vox reports: Costa Rica is pulling off a feat most countries just daydream about: For two straight months, the Central American country hasn't burned any fossil fuels to generate electricity. That's right: 100 percent renewable power. This isn't a blip, either. For 300 total days last year and 150 days so far this year, Costa Rica's electricity has come entirely from renewable sources, mostly hydropower and geothermal. Heavy rains have helped four big hydroelectric dams run above their usual capacity, letting the country turn off its diesel generators. Now, there's a huge, huge caveat here: Costa Rica hasn't eschewed all fossil fuels entirely. The country still has more than 1 million cars running on old-fashioned gasoline, which is why imported oil still supplies over half its total energy needs. The country also has cement plants that burn coal.
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Costa Rica Has Gone 76 Straight Days Using 100% Renewable Electricity

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  • I like new technology, but to consider gasoline to be old fashioned is hybris.

    • Also to note Electric Cars are a luxury for the Rich of Americans and Europeans. This isn't old fashioned yet, because there isn't a wide scale replacement.
      A flip phone is an old fashioned device, because most of the population have moved over to smartphones. However your iPhone 6 isn't an old fashion phone, just because the 7 just got released.
      There are still a lot of gasoline cars being created in the market, with many companies without an all electric plan for their cars in any time in the future.

      • An electric car is no more expensive than an ICE car in the long term - an ICE car's fuel and maintenance costs are vastly more expensive while an electric car is more expensive up front (and has the long-term occasional concentrated maintenance cost of a new battery pack). I know Gen. Y'ers who own Nissan Leafs and Kia Soul EVs.

        • by slew ( 2918 )

          An electric car is no more expensive than an ICE car in the long term - an ICE car's fuel and maintenance costs are vastly more expensive while an electric car is more expensive up front (and has the long-term occasional concentrated maintenance cost of a new battery pack). I know Gen. Y'ers who own Nissan Leafs and Kia Soul EVs.

          I have a 20 year old acura integra with an old fashion ICE... Paid $16K in 1996 (perhaps $27K for something similar today). Only ICE related maintenance (other than changing oil about every 7500 miles and 3 air filter over those 20 years) was a battery and most recently spark plugs (when it diped down below 25mpg). At about 100K miles (mostly commute miles on par with a brave range-limited Leaf class EV), say about $12K in gas (@ $3/gallon) and about a $1000 in twenty oil changes (@ $50/each), and say $100

          • I wouldn't assume the battery will cost the same 10 or 20 years from now as it does now...the price will probably halve or better each decade.

            • Lithium has a long history [metalary.com] of increasing in price. Unless we happen to find some huge, new, easy-to-mine vein of lithium ore, those prices most likely won't come down as production is barely keeping up with demand.
              • Yet lithium batteries have a long history of decreasing in price. I'd suspect that's because lithium batteries can be recycled and because the price of batteries has more to do with manufacturing costs than raw material price. Furthermore, lithium-based batteries might not always be the best - look at dual-carbon batteries for example.

              • by AaronW ( 33736 )

                Lithium only makes up around 2% of the battery. It is not a significant contributor to the price.

              • by dbIII ( 701233 )

                Unless we happen to find some huge, new, easy-to-mine vein of lithium ore

                Surely you are joking.
                The desert in California is full of the stuff in salt lakes and there is a huge salt lake in Bolivia with enough for centuries of current lithium usage in that lake alone. That Bolivian lake is so big and so flat that it is used by satellites to calibrate their altitude measurements.
                Access? It has around a dozen rusty locomotives parked on it. If they could get there then getting the salt out isn't so hard.
                Mi

        • An electric car is no more expensive than an ICE car in the long term - an ICE car's fuel and maintenance costs are vastly more expensive while an electric car is more expensive up front (and has the long-term occasional concentrated maintenance cost of a new battery pack).

          I doubt it. The EV may be missing an engine, but it's hardly ever the engine that gives problems. Engines typically outlast most of the other crap that falls off cars. As an EV owner you'll still have the gearbox, the suspension, the brakes, the hydrualics, the electrical system, the aircon, the heater and most of the other mechanicals present in a non-EV car. With a single exception, my repairs for the last 25 years of driving have been electrical or non-engine mechanical problems.

          Engines just don't break

          • Ohoho how I wish that were true! I've had to get two engines disassembled for major work in the last few months. One was rebuilt recently, but due to some microscopic imperfection in the reassembly process, it wrecked itself (spun a rod bearing) costing me thousands. And in my experience about 1/4 of automotive problems are directly related to the engine, and about 2/3rd related to the ICE or a system only an ICE would have. I've never had an engine fail from "abuse" though. In fact from what I've seen they

    • it is old fashioned, its old tech by a long way. its a newer version of coal burning but its now in the "old tech" bracket.
  • So they didn't? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 08, 2016 @02:29PM (#52849879)

    "The country also has cement plants that burn coal." So assuming they didn't go offline for 150 days, then they didn't actually go 100% on green energy.

    Why did they lie? Oh I see, 'marketing speech'.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I used 100% renewable energy, except for the parts where I didn't. It makes perfect sense

    • Re:So they didn't? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Flavianoep ( 1404029 ) on Thursday September 08, 2016 @02:37PM (#52849941)
      Some people (not you) forget that "energy" is not always synonym with "electricity". So whereas headline is accurate, the whole of the article is not so.
      • by Qzukk ( 229616 )

        And some people forget that fly ash is made by burning coal. It would be interesting to see if they simply wasted the heat from the coal though.

    • Re:So they didn't? (Score:4, Informative)

      by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Thursday September 08, 2016 @02:50PM (#52850067)

      Cement production doesn't involve power generation so no electricity is used. Worldwide Cement production uses around 20% of the world energy. You have to heat the mixture (a man made combination of several minerals) to about 2,700 degrees F to get Cement. This tremendous amount of heat (every ounce of mineral has to sustain this temp) requires massive expenditures of energy, sometimes electricity but usually something easy like thermal coal. The resulting klinker is then ball milled into a fine powder and sold as Portland Cement Concrete.

      • You have to heat the mixture (a man made combination of several minerals) to about 2,700 degrees F to get Cement.

        hey wait, don't they have volcanoes in Costa Rica? So that pesky cement production problem is solvable.
        Now to just get everybody switched over to electric cars.

        And since someone inevitably brought up the energy storage with problem with renewables -- Costa Rica is also pretty close to the equator. Just run mass up the space elevator when the wind is blowing / Sun is shining. Then run mass down the elevator when you need more baseload power. Good grief, I can't believe I have to spell everything out for

  • or something like that
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 08, 2016 @02:36PM (#52849929)

    "The downside to hydropower is that it requires consistent rainfall. Though the dams in Costa Rica are now full, just months ago the country was suffering one of the worst droughts in its history. This forced Costa Rican utility companies to burn fuel to generate power, releasing greenhouse gases and causing rate rises. Even if Costa Rica were able to sustain 100% clean electricity production, the country still relies on petroleum for transportation, and emissions from this sector are the largest hurdle the country faces in reaching its carbon neutrality goal. The environment ministry reports that fuel burned by cars, buses and trains accounted for almost 70% of the country’s carbon emissions in 2014. According to customs there are only 200 or so hybrid cars in Costa Rica to take advantage of the energy produced by renewables on the grid.

    The fact that even a country like Costa Rica, which has made major investments to produce clean energy, still struggles with these obstacles, shows just how difficult it would be for larger, more industrialised nations to follow in its footsteps.

    With a population under 5 million and no major industry, Costa Rica uses much less power than most developed countries, and its geography of tightly packed volcanoes, rivers and mountains is more suited to producing clean power than most."

    sauce: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/30/truth-behind-costa-rica-renewable-energy-reservoirs-climate-change

    • by David_Hart ( 1184661 ) on Thursday September 08, 2016 @03:26PM (#52850313)

      The Canary Islands are far ahead of Costa Rica.... They use Solar farms, solar on practically every building, and wind farms...

      http://www.npr.org/sections/pa... [npr.org]

      • by avandesande ( 143899 ) on Thursday September 08, 2016 @04:25PM (#52850625) Journal
        Electricity on remote islands is very expensive which makes solar affordable. Most of them use diesel generators, and the cost of shipped diesel is very high.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Trogre ( 513942 )

        Solar is great but it is not a base load. Without a massive, MASSIVE, bank of batteries solar has no effective buffering - it generates full power when the sun is out, less when cloudy, and nothing at night and so cannot be depended on as a single source of power. Likewise for wind.

        They are best served supplementing renewable base loads such as hydro, so when there is plenty of sunlight/wind the hydro use, and thus depletion of the water level, is reduced.

        Of course, there may be better base loads in the w

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          Base load is a chicken/egg issue. Because we had a lot of thermal power generation that runs best 24/7/365 we've spent years providing incentives for energy use at night despite most industrial and commercial activity happening in daylight.

          If you've got an Aluminium smelter or 24/7 production lines then a lot of base load is ideal, but in a lot of places it does not really matter apart from a little bit needed for lighting and residential use at night.

          There are plenty of storage methods out there, even m
    • Even if Costa Rica were able to sustain 100% clean electricity production, the country still relies on petroleum for transportation

      If only there were a company building electric cars with the goal to eventually make them affordable.

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      "The downside to hydropower is that it requires consistent rainfall.

      That depends on what is meant by "consistent". Hydro power that harness waterfalls won't stop producing electricity unless the river dries up. For most rivers, that is just not going to happen, even if there's a drought. Especially not rivers that get some of their water from glacier melt-offs.
      At worst, you will produce less electricity in dry years than in wet ones, but it doesn't require consistent rainfall - inconsistent works fine.

    • For years, decades even, people have been saying that you can't run an economy on renewable* sources of electricity but Costa Rica is showing that it can be done. Some countries in Europe have a high percentage of the electrical generation from renewable sources at times but nothing close to 100% for 76 days.

      Sure they are using fossil fuels for transportation and other uses but they are way ahead of other countries. When Canada, the US, Australia, or even some other country like New Zealand powers their e

  • Keep in mind (Score:2, Insightful)

    by clonehappy ( 655530 )

    When they trot out these "feel good" stories about renewable energy, that this is a developing nation with an extremely temperate climate. Also remember this is the model for the United States and the rest of the modern first-world/western nations under globalism/leftism: reducing them to third-world status.

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      It's hysterical watching people desperately downplaying Costa Rica's accomplishment so their own country doesn't come off looking as much like a dinosaur mired in a tar pit.

  • So? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Strider- ( 39683 ) on Thursday September 08, 2016 @02:40PM (#52849967)

    With the exception of a few isolated communities (and the occasional voltage support from Burrard Thermal in Vancouver), British Columbia has run on hydro power for decades.

  • So, more than half Costa Rica's energy comes from fossil fuels yet TFA says it's been running without fossil fuels... FUD.
  • Orly? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Doug Otto ( 2821601 ) on Thursday September 08, 2016 @02:42PM (#52849987)
    The country still has more than 1 million cars running on old-fashioned gasoline

    You mean they all just don't swing from vine to vine to get around? Who knew?
    • It's a growth target for Tesla. They have the electricity! Just have to figure out how to sell $100,000 cars to a populace that averages under $7,000 per year in total income...
  • by mi ( 197448 ) <slashdot-2017q4@virtual-estates.net> on Thursday September 08, 2016 @02:43PM (#52849993) Homepage Journal

    In our trip to the country, we stayed in a semi-permanent camp on the Pacific shore, which was not wired. In fact, there was no proper road to it either — the only way to get there was by (small) plane.

    The camp had a generator, of course — a noisy affair, which they fired for a few hours each day to power up/recharge the radio and phones. But, hey, there are still places in the world, where even those evil devices — made from poisonous materials by exploited workers toiling in polluting factories — aren't known...

    Some times the spurning of civilization is explained simply by absence of civilization...

  • by Bugler412 ( 2610815 ) on Thursday September 08, 2016 @02:47PM (#52850043)
    Great that they can exist on renewables like this, mean it. But using an essentially non-industrial country in a temperate climate as an example is statistical bias at best, outright lying at worse. How many aluminum smelters, steel plants, large data centers, and other myriad large bulk power users exist in Costa Rica? You know, the things that allow humans to actually build a first world country capable of supporting a large urban population? Yeah, thought so.
  • by Streetlight ( 1102081 ) on Thursday September 08, 2016 @02:50PM (#52850069) Journal
    I don't think Costa Rica is interested in invading another country nor has it been invaded except by folks enjoying its beaches and mild climate. Not sure how big the police force is but may be no larger than that of a big US city.
  • Costa Rica population has doubled within the last 35 years and is up 500% since 1950. [wikipedia.org]. I'd say this level of population growth will cause long-term problems no matter how the countries energy is produced.

  • No ridiculous subsidies for renewables
    let people build hydro when and where they can
    Stop getting in the way of coal

  • Unfortunately, in the US, we're past peak Hydro here due to environmental impacts and the corresponding legislation. Additionally, Costa Rica had to stop hydro generation because of water shortages..

    Geothermal has some applications, but they've geographically limited. Costa Rica's got it fairly good. But the US doesn't really have the same distribution of available sites that are useful for utility-grade geothermal.

    Now, that's not to say other forms of geothermal might not help out on smaller scales. Bu

  • daydream? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ooloorie ( 4394035 )

    Costa Rica's per capita GDP is 1/3 of that of the US, making it a fairly poor country. And if you want to find other countries that use little fossil fuel energy, just keep going down the list and look at the countries that are even poorer than Costa Rica.

    Every country in the world was run on pretty much 100% renewable energy sources until the industrial revolution. That's neither something to brag about or something to aspire to.

    • Every country in the world was run on pretty much 100% renewable energy sources until the industrial revolution. That's neither something to brag about or something to aspire to.

      Renewable energy sources produce less pollution and are more sustainable than fossil fuels, why wouldn't they be something to aspire to?

  • by sdguero ( 1112795 ) on Thursday September 08, 2016 @04:18PM (#52850599)
    It is common for rural areas to be disconnected form the grid and many small communities in Central/South America run off generators. I stayed at a surf/yoga camp in 2011 that was run off candles and generators, even though a place to tie into the grid was only a couple miles away.

    When I ruminated about how a candle is probably a worse polluter than a 60W light bulb powered by a coal power plant, the crunchy ex-pat owner got pretty upset with me. I goolged it when we got home and sure enough, candles horrible for air pollution compared to light bulbs.
  • by sombragris ( 246383 ) on Thursday September 08, 2016 @04:42PM (#52850729) Homepage

    My country (Paraguay) went 100% renewable after 1973, when the Acaray dam went operational and covered 100% of the energy needs of the country. In 1983 the world's largest operational dam (Itaipú) began to serve energy and we own 50% of it (with Brazil). We also own 50% of another large dam (Yacyreta). Now, and save for biomass-burning usines used in the Mennonite colonies at the far north, isolated Chaco area, we still are 100% covered by hydropower. There are plans to convert these biomass plants either to solar power or to lay down wires so they could use power from Itaipu. So, I would say that covering large energy needs with renewable power is totally possible, and we are proof of it since 1973.

  • From the Guardian last year:

    "The downside to hydropower is that it requires consistent rainfall. Though the dams in Costa Rica are now full, just months ago the country was suffering one of the worst droughts in its history. This forced Costa Rican utility companies to burn fuel to generate power, releasing greenhouse gases and causing rate rises."

    https://www.theguardian.com/co... [theguardian.com]

    • So if you have a Costa Rica sized economy (and accompanying lifestyles) it is possible to (barely) run it on renewable's.

      I'm sure that tells us a lot about what a first world economy can do.

  • They could probably go another 20 years, and not generate as much energy as the solar cells and equipment took to make. Nice going dudes!
    • The energy to make them is paid back in 2-4 years, and they last 30 years. That's in Australia, which is roughly the same distance from the Equator as Sri Lanka.

      http://www.solarchoice.net.au/blog/news/solar-energy-myth-buster-1-they-take-more-energy-to-manufacture-then-they-will-ever-generate-161209/

      You're welcome. No charge. I educate idiots every day.

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