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Fuelling increasing energy demand with geothermal in Central America

Ahuachapán Geothermal Power Plant by LaGeo in El Salvador (source: ThinkGeoEnergy, creative commons)
Parker O'Halloran 30 Aug 2017

At a regional conference in El Salvador on August 21-22, government representatives and industry experts gathered to discuss the implementation of more clean energy for growing demands. Geothermal energy was highlighted as a promising supplier in this new mix.

At a recent workshop in El Salvador held on August 21-22, the discussion of implementing more renewable energy into the mix. Regional representatives of governments from the regions discussed a variety of options, with a focus on geothermal energy. Central America is a well known for being part of the “ring of fire” and has substantial geothermal reservoirs. With a population in the region of approximately 40 million people and rapidly developing economic growth, demand for energy has increased 65% in the past 12 years. By 2020, the area is estimated to require an additional seven gigawatts of energy to meet growing needs of a developing society that is rapidly electrifying.

“Volcanoes have always been a menace to humanity but now in El Salvador, they are a resource to generate clean, renewable and cheap energy. Now they represent the future of our nations,” said David López, president of the government’s Lempa River Executive Hydropower Commission, at the workshop on geothermal energy. While hydropower has provided the main supply of power to these countries, geothermal power has been gaining a foothold in the region.

Geothermal energy in the region started to be developed in the 1970s in El Salvador, with the inauguration of its first plant in Ahuachapán, in the west of the country, and later it began to be developed in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras. Now, these five countries are among the top 10 in the world with respect to the share of geothermal energy in their energy mix, with El Salvador second only to Iceland. In terms of installed capacity, Costa Rica is the leader in Central America, with 207 MW, followed by El Salvador with 204, Nicaragua with 55 and Guatemala with 50.

Alexander Richter, ThinkGeoEnergy´s founder and president of the International Geothermal Association, told Inter Press Service that, “El Salvador is a good example of how it has tapped into its geothermal energy to cover its energy needs. The sector has not expanded as it could have done. There are many challenges, but in general, we have the people and the experience, and important projects are being developed.”

One of greatest challenges to developing geothermal, in any region, is obtaining financial resources to carry out the initial stages of the project, the exploration and drilling, as well as the construction of the plants themselves.

Richter added, “That costs money, and requires a stable economy capable of paying high enough electricity prices to sustain these projects.”

Source: For the full article see Geothermal – a Key Source of Clean Energy in Central America.