Coffee Producers in Costa Rica Reap Rewards of New Solar Technology

Coffee Producers in Costa Rica Reap Rewards of New Solar Technology

Using the latest solar technology, a Canadian-led partnership is helping coffee producers in Costa Rica save energy and help the environment. Trade Counselor Sylvy Gariepy of the Canadian Embassy in Costa Rica recently unveiled a new solar coffee-drying test site in Tilaran -- the largest of its kind in Central America.

"This is an exciting day for the future of solar energy in agricultural applications," said Ms. Gariepy. "This facility exemplifies the unlimited potential and benefits of this renewable energy source."

The site was developed by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), the Government of Canada's Technology Early Action Measures (TEAM) program, Conserval Engineering Inc. of Toronto, and Coopeldos R.L., a coffee-growing cooperative in Costa Rica.

"This project is another example of Canada's leadership in developing innovative approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions that will have lasting benefits at home and around the world," said the Honourable R. John Efford, Minister of Natural Resources Canada. "Increasing energy efficiency and using clean, renewable energy sources are essential to addressing climate change."

At the Tilaran plant, 850 square meters of Conserval's Solarwall panels were installed on the roof. Intake fans draw in warmed air from the perforated panels to dry the coffee beans. The Solarwall technology was developed with support from NRCan, is 40% more efficient and costs 25% less than conventional solar products.

"Coopeldos has shown leadership in the coffee industry by switching to solar energy, and their customers, including Starbucks, are benefiting from the quality and taste of the solar-dried coffee beans," said John Hollick, president of Conserval Engineering Inc.

"For Coopeldos R.L., this is a great opportunity because it fulfils two of our institutional goals: quality and innovation. The use of technologies that protect our environment is one more element our clients will consider when they choose our coffee. It is not only organic and of the highest quality, but it is also produced with a technology that avoids deforestation, whereas our previous system ran on wood," explains Juan Carlos Álvarez, general manager of Coopeldos R.L.

This project was sparked by a Canadian-led study of the International Energy Agency's Solar Heating and Cooling Program. The study found solar crop-drying systems result in significant energy savings, reduced use of fossil fuels and lower GHG emissions.

The Tilaran facility is one of six test sites -- the others are in Panama, China, and India. These sites are expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1,000 tonnes a year, primarily by displacing fossil fuels. The projects in Costa Rica and Panama are also helping to prevent deforestation by reducing the amount of wood burned.