At the end of last year the company Drs. Corrales decided to switch to solar energy. This family run business from Palmares with 30 years experience in the manufacturing of animal feed and concentrates faced the danger that their electricity consumption would exceed the “maximum demand” of 3,000 kW. This meant that ICE would apply a different rate so that instead of the usual 400,000 colones they would have to start paying nearly one million colones per month for electricity. “There was no way to reduce our consumption,” says Francisco Corrales jr., “the engines of our machinery need a lot of electricity and they are all essential to the production process. As we have a great affinity with the environment it was a logical decision to seek a solution in renewable energy.”
480 Volts from the sun
That’s why they decided to install solar panels and to apply for the ICE Pilot Plan; this plan allows them to stay connected to the grid and consume public electricity when necessary and inject it into the grid at times of low consumption for which ICE even will start paying in the near future.
Nowadays Drs. Corrales only owes ICE the monthly minimum of 10,000 colones for being connected to the grid. The installed system is giving three-phase 277 and 480 volts, which is ideal for heavy industrial equipment such as Drs. Corrales’. As photovoltaic technology with these features is rare, Drs. Corrales’ factory even serves as an example to other companies who come to learn how the system functions. Despite some initial problems, that have since been resolved by Purasol, they are very happy with their investment, an investment that will pay for itself through savings on their ICE bill. At Corrales they hope that their experience can benefit other companies by encouraging them to make an investment themselves that contributes to the environment.
Need for governmental support
But according to Francisco Corrales, private and industrial initiatives to invest in solar energy are not enough; “I believe that solar energy should be included in the policy of government. Electricity prices keep rising because the electric plants need to burn expensive fossil fuels due to a lack of water and the only way to stop this rise is to invest in energy from inexhaustible sources like the sun and this needs all the support of the government. If Costa Rican companies want to keep offering competitive prices then electricity price shouldn’t rise any further and existing environmental friendly alternatives should be utilised.