Every year, the sun provides to the earth 14.000 times more the amount of energy that human kind needs to produce annually for its development.
Because of this, producing all of our electricity from a small amount of that energy wouldn't affect the total amount of energy received by the earth; so it would continue developing all natural processes with 13.999 times the amount of energy that we would take.
The enormous potential of solar radiation can be explained like this: In order to generate all the electricity that humanity consumes annually (20 billion KWh) with solar systems we would need about 200.000 km2 of solar panels.
This means that in order to satisfy all the energetic demand of our specie we would only need to use an 0.0015% of the earth’s surface (of about 132 million of km2), and better yet, its application wouldn't represent a real sacrifice of lands because this panels can be located over the roofs of already built areas, or in big solar centrals located in dessert zones without any cost.
There are two types of technologies that allow us to take advantage of the sun. The solar photovoltaic (FV after initials in Spanish), that transforms the radiation directly into electricity; and the solar thermal, that absorbs solar heat and use it with diverse purposes.
Solar Thermal Technology:
This system absorbs the sun heat to use it in the production of hot water for sanitary purposes, calefaction or in the production of mechanic energy to generate electricity. It can also be used to feed a refrigerator by absorption, which uses the heat instead of using electricity to produce cold, replacing the electric air conditioning systems.
Solar Photovoltaic Technology (FV)
In this case, panels made from photovoltaic cells transform the sun light directly into electricity. A FV cell is a treated silicon sheet able to "steal" energy from the phontos (particles of light) and transforms it directly in an electric current. Even if its performance is better on sunny days, it also generates electricity from the diffuse light of cloudy days.
The first time this system was used was in the 60’s, making possible the permanence of satellites in the space by providing them energy to function. A little after, this time on the earth, we started using FV panels in different devices that had no access to electric nets; from espionage military applications to luminous buoys, railway signs and communication antennas (telegraphy, telephones and radios).
Today more than a million houses in isolated places have electricity and telecommunications thanks to this technology, and in the developed world there are buildings with integrated panels that obtain from the sun most of the energy the consume. The world market of photovoltaic cells increased approximately a 20% in the early 90’s, over a 30% since 1997 and currently increases near a 50% annually. The power installed in the world already exceeds he 5.000MWp (enough to provide electricity to two countries similar to Costa Rica).
Japan and Germany are the world leaders in the production of FV panels, and even if Japan is the biggest producer Germany has been the actual pioneer in the implementation of concrete politics since 1988; in what refers to big solar centrals and massive application of panels over roofs. In Costa Rica, in spite of having more sun availability, solar energy still has a marginal participation in what comes to electricity generation.
The theoretical potential of solar energy in Costa Rica has been estimated by MINAE in 10.000 Megawatts, number that is dozens of times bigger than the one that refers to geothermic energy (865MW); or the one for wind power (600MW). Despite of this, nowadays we only use a 1% and ICE almost ignores it on its plan of expansion 2008-2021, which is strongly concentrated in the increasing of electric generation by oil burning, going from a 4% in 2006 to a 22% in 2021.By now, ICE claims to be interested in solar technology only as a solution to small communities located far away from the net; where it is not profitable to install new wire.
Availably in Guanacaste
The solar potential of the guanacastecan region is definitively privileged. Besides receiving a high amount of energy every year, the season of more electric demand matches perfectly with the sunniest months of the year. Although the maximum energy authorities of the country show almost no interest in the global tendency, some businessmen and home owners are already updating on their own to take advantage of this potential.
In Costa Rica and Guanacaste there are several companies that provide this technology with alternatives for houses, hotels, businesses and industries. Investing in solar photovoltaic technology is affordable. The initial investment is quickly recovered because you won't spend a penny in this type of energy for decades. After installed, the actual systems provide free electricity with a simple management and complete safety.
Panels last up to 40 years and don't require any maintenance. Because of being independent modules, the production can be extended anytime without the need of changing the equipment by just adding more panels. Today there are available more esthetic solutions, such as solar tiles or modern solar roofs that fulfill the structural need and, at the same time, generate electricity.
One of the keys to fight weather changes is to change our sources of combustibles and our production of energy. Considering the actual situation with electricity in Costa Rica and fossil combustibles around the world, installing solar panels in our houses and businesses will contribute directly to the solution of both problems.