Costa Rica to Begin Construction on Hydro Project

January 9, 2009

Work is expected to get underway this year on a huge hydroelectric power plant in the Southern Zone that could become the biggest in the region.

The Diquís project, between the rural southern communities of Buenos Aires and Pérez Zeledón, could generate 631 megawatts of electricity, making it the most powerful hydro plant in Central America, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) said.

Currently, the region’s largest hydroelectric  unit is in El Cajón, Honduras, which generates almost 300 mw. Costa Rica’s biggest, the Angostura plant, near Turrialba, east of San José, cranks out 177 mw.

Following nationwide blackouts in April 2007, ICE said Costa Rica needs an additional 200 mw of capacity to meet demand.

The country depends on hydropower for 80 percent of its energy production. ICE Executive President Pedro Quirós said the Diquís plant’s potential would match a third of all the energy Costa Rica generates, which is about 2,000 mw, and would guarantee sufficient electricity for the country.

The water plant, however, would not be ready to roll until 2016.

Quirós said it will cost about $1.9 billion, making it the largest government expenditure in Costa Rican history and would require big investors.

The ICE chief said he has presented the project at investment forums in such countries as Singapore.

The project could still face some snags. The Diquís plant would require a 55- square-kilometer reservoir, part of which would inundate a space that is home to 1,100 people, including some 36 indigenous families.

 

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