Thursday, January 12, 2012

Days 8-10

For our last plant visit, we toured a wind farm. The plant has been operating for a number of years, so we were able to look at both the older and newer models. The plant manager first showed us the control room where they monitor all the turbines and collect data of the average wind speed and the average electricity generation. We then were able to enter the turbines to see the circuits and generator. While inside the turbine, the plant manager explained all the components that are factored in when picking a location for a wind plant. Besides average wind speed and accessibility, he also noted that they try not to build plants in the migration path of birds. After exiting the turbine, he continued to talk more about the future of wind plants and the developments in wind turbine technology.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Days 5-7

In the last few days, we toured two different renewable energy plants. The first one used the manure produced by a nearby pig farm to generate methane. The plant first collects the waste and then places it in an air tight bag with special bacteria that works through the waste and produces methane. The plant then sells the methane as a form of combustible fuel. It was very interesting to learn about how they developed the process of producing methane and their plans for the future of the plant. The second plant we visited was a hydroelectric dam. Throughout the majority of the trip we were located in the town of Tilaran which is located next to Costa Rica's largest man-made lake, Lake Arenal. The dam we visited supplies the baseline electricity for most of the surrounding area. We were able to go inside the control panel to see how they monitor the flow rates and the rate of generation of electricity. We were also able to enter the plant to see the generator and learn how they monitor and maintain all the machinery in the plant.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Days 1-4

Even though we've only been in Costa Rica for a few days the experience has been amazing. Already Beth Anne, Julia and I trekked through a jungle to swim in a waterfall, went salsa dancing with locals and tasted some amazing Costa Rican specialties like fried plantains. In addition to all the adventures, we have had lessons on geothermal energy and visited an energy plant that utilizes the steam produced underground by a nearby volcano to generate power for the surrounding towns. We toured the plant with the head engineer, and he showed us how they located the pockets of steam underground and how they transport the steam to turbines to generate electricity. We talked about both the benefits (a renewable source of energy) and limits (needs a source of heat like volcanoes to be nearby) of geothermal energy.