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Andrew Burger headshot

Public-Private Partnership Boosts Clean Energy in Nicaragua

By Andrew Burger

Nicaragua has added 36-megawatts (MW) of clean, renewable electricity to its national electricity grid. Reno, Nevada's Ram Power announced on Dec. 22 that it successfully synchronized electricity generation for its Phase I expansion at the San Jacinto-Tizate geothermal energy field. The new
capacity augments 10-MW of clean electricity from previously installed back-pressure units.

Owned by Polaris Energy Nicaragua, San Jacinto-Tizate’s 46-MW of clean electrical power (DEL electricity) is sold on through to national grid operator ENATREL through long-term power purchase agreements with Nicaraguan power distributors Disnorte-Dissur, subsidiaries of Spain’s Gas Natural Fenosa.

Harnessing Power from Nicaragua's Volcanoes
Phase I is the first of two expansion phases at the San Jacinto-Tizate geothermal project area, which is located in Telica, a municipality in the southwestern Pacific province of Leon, where geothermal energy resources are associated with volcanism in around a chain of volcanic mountains. Another 36-MW is scheduled to come on-line in late 2012 or early 2013, according to project development plans.

Taken together, Phase I and Phase II are expected to save Nicaragua as much as $80 million annually in energy costs. That's excluding the environmental and health benefits greater reliance on clean energy resources will have locally, across the country and beyond.

"Synchronization for the Phase I expansion at San Jacinto-Tizate is the result of a dedicated team of professionals who overcame all the challenges associated with building a world-class geothermal power project," stated Shuman Moore, CEO of Ram Power in a company news release. "I am extremely proud of our employees who have continued to demonstrate their commitment to this project and to the development of geothermal power in the region."

Harnessing its geothermal resources could move Nicaragua a good way forward in efforts to reduce its reliance on imported coal and oil to meet its growing energy needs. Intermittently affected by volcanic eruptions and all the destruction associated with them, doing so also highlights the clean energy potential and beneficial effects the country's volcanic geology can have.

Electrification, Clean Energy, Nicaragua and the IDB

Polaris Energy Nicaragua's expansion at San Jacinto-Tizate is financed by a $30.3 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The installation of two new, higher capacity turbine generators will be installed with the goal of bringing the project's generating capacity up to 72-MW, enough to supply electricity to nearly 1 in every 12 homes throughout the country.

As significant as achieving the goals set out for expanding San Jacinto-Tizate are, the IDB's work with the Nicaraguan government extend well beyond the immediate effects of harnessing the country's geothermal energy resources.

“This project is not just about expanding access to electricity. It is also about transforming the country’s energy matrix to reduce its dependence on fossil fuel imports and boost its long term competitiveness,” said Hans Schulz, General Manager of the Structured and Corporate Finance Department of the IDB.

Toward these ends, the IDB has established the Nicaragua National Sustainable Electrification and Renewable Energy Program (PNESER). The program enables IDB to apply its resources in a modular fashion in support of renewable and clean energy and grid transmission projects in Nicaragua through 2012.
Andrew Burger headshot

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

Read more stories by Andrew Burger