Field Study and Service-Learning MediaBlog

17 April, 2008

Miravalles: ICE Geothermal Plant

 Natural Steam
Geothermal energy is a form of renewable energy derived from the natural heat of the earth. This heat is brought to the surface by thermal conduction and by intrusion into the earth's crust of molten magma coming from great depths. As groundwater is heated, geothermal energy is produced in the form of hot water and steam. High temperature reservoirs greater than 150 degrees C are ideal for commercial production of electricity. This picture is taken by the plant which shows the hot water and steam coming through the Earth´s surface. This is the type of steam that would be used for geothermal energy.

Miravalles I
This is the first geothermal plant installed: Miravalles I. It employes single flash plant Toshiba technology that was bought from the Japanese. The construction of the plant started March 2, 1994 and it took two years to finish. The unit requires 435 tons of vapors per hour to produce 55 MW, but at it´s full capacity it is able to generate 60 MW. This picture shows the first section of the process. The tubing shown is for bringing the vapor from the reserviors to the seperator & then to the turbine. Afterward, the recondensed vapor is sent to the cooling towers.

Miravalles II
This is the vapor input for the second unit installed: Miravalles II. This more modern technology was manufactured by Ansaldo, an Italian firm. Construction was started on August 13, 1998. This plant also required two years to complete construction, but the production was backed up for two more years due to problems with the new technology. This plant produces the same as Miravalles I: 55 MW. This picture shows the flow of the vapor that is extracted from the reservior into the vapor seperator. The vapor seperator then seperates the gas from the water under pressure and then transports it to the turbine to generate energy.

Cooling Towers
After the water vapor is used to generate energy, it is transported to the cooling towers. Within the cooling towers the vapor is cooled and condenses into water. Here the water is cooled to 29 degrees C by huge fans on the top of the building blowing down. After the water goes through the cooling tower it is still too hot to inject back into the reservior. In order to further cool the water, it is delivered to lagoons were the water is allowed to cool down for a period of itime. Once the water gets to the temperature of 15-20 degrees C it will be safe to re-inject into the reservoir.

Control Room
This picture shows the control room which is inside the same building as the turbines of Miravalles I and II. The other two plants are located in different areas nearby. From this room, ICE is able to control and monitor all of the Miravalles power plants except Miravalles III. Miravalles III is foreign owned and so it is monitored by those companies. ICE sells Miravalles III the steam and buys back their generated electricity. The other three geothermal plants employ about 80 local workers who control, monitor and maintain the plants. If anything irregular is happening at one of the three plants, emergency shutdown valves can be controlled from this control room.

Miravalles Power Grid
This is the Miravalles power grid to which all the geothermal power plants are connected. The power from this grid first goes to the Arenal area, and then on to San Jose through the ¨Sistema Nacional Interconectado¨. Currently, Miravalles provides enough electricity to power the entire province of Guanacaste. All of the Miravalles plants together generate a total of 142.5 MW, providing between 10 to 13 percent of Costa Rica’s total electricity. This is a great clean renewable energy source for Costa Rica, but the reservoirs in Miravalles are only thought to last about 20 years. With ICE’s good care and maintenance it is hoped that the reservoirs will last up to 26 years.


Excess Steam
These are the cooling towers where excess steam is released into the atmosphere after the energy has been produced by drving the turbines.

Author: Tanya Almada

15 April, 2008

Cañas: Las Pumas Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

Afternoon Nap
A Jaguar takes a nap during the hot Spring afternoon in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Although her cage contains a variety of native trees and plants, soft grass, scratching posts, climbing platforms, and scented bags of eucalyptus and vanilla oils, our guide says that she prefers to stay in the cool shade of her concrete-floored “bedroom.” Jaguars are the biggest predator-carnivores in the Neotropics, feeding on monkeys, birds, turtles, iguanas, and other larger mammals. They are active night and day, and are known to travel over 200-300km/day! In Costa Rica today, Jaguars are endangered of extinction due to hunting by farmers (to reduce cattle loss) and habitat loss from deforestation.

Not only Pumas are kept at Las Pumas Rescue Shelter
Las Pumas currently shelters five of the six endangered felines of Costa Rica, including the Margay (Leopardus wiedii), Jaguarundi (Herpailurus yaguarondi), Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), Puma (Puma concolor), and Jaguar (Panthera onca). They also provide safe housing for other animals such as the gray fox, racoon, white-faced monkey, white-tailed deer, orange chineed parakeet, keel-billed toucan, orange-fronted parakeet, red-lored parrot and scarlet macaw. The primary objective of Las Pumas is to rehabilitate and release animals back into conservation areas, but sometimes animals are kept at the shelter if they demonstrate a physical or emotional fragility.

Lilly Bodmer de Hagnauer, Founder of Las Pumas Rescue Shelter
Approximately 40 years ago, Mrs. Lilly Bodmer de Hagnauer began to care for injured and orphaned wild animals in Costa Rica. After a few years she had accumulated over 160 animals of 60 different species. To house the animals, she first constructed Hacienda La Pacifica, S.A., a small and private wildlife rehabilitation shelter in Cañas, Guanacaste. In 1985, she built an even larger facility, Las Pumas Rescue Shelter, which is still in use today, sheltering more than 80 individuals of 22 endangered species. Lilly died in 2001, but her Rescue Shelter continues to operate as part of the Arenal Tempisque Conservation Area (ACAT).

¿Cuál animal es la mejor mascota? (Which animal is the best pet?)
One-forth of all homes in Costa Rica keep a wild animal (birds, parakeets, reptiles, and even small cats!) as a pet, and every year 27,000-35,000 baby birds are poached for pet trade. Las Pumas Rescue Shelter takes in, recuperates and releases back into the wild animals that have been confiscated by the authorities or donated by local people once they become too difficult to look after. To reduce illegal pet trade in Costa Rica, the shelter also operates an environmental education program where children learn the role and importance of wild animals in their native ecosystems.

Employment and Volunteering Opportunities
Las Pumas Rescue Shelter currently offers employment to 10 local residents who live in the nearby Corobicí and Cañas communities. These local people learn about farm and wild animal management, tourist relations, construction and bricklaying. There is also a foreign volunteer exchange program at the shelter, where up to three volunteers can live at the station for up to six weeks, assisting in environmental education and animal care. A normal day at the shelter consists of breakfast at 5:00am, then work starting at 6:00am, which includes sweeping paths, preparing fruits, vegetables and meat for the animals to eat, doing ground maintenance, giving tours of the facility, assisting in animal rehabilitation care, and monitoring the activity and preparing daily logs of permanent animal residents.

Contributions Welcome
Las Pumas Rescue Shelter is sustained primarily on voluntary contributions and donations from institutes, companies, organizations and farms. To feed the animals, cows are also donated by Hacienda Montezuma in Cañas, and fruits veggies are donated by local markets. Over the last 10 years, the shelter has accumulated 67.4 million colones ($136,000) from contributions, but unfortunately they still are facing a 20.9 million colones ($42,000) deficit. To raise additional money, the shelter has increased their visibility by offering more tours and educational classes, obtaining national and international media coverage, exhibiting the shelter to nature photographers, and advertising in Costa Rican travel books. If you would like at make a contribution to Las Pumas Rescue Shelter, please contact

Author: Michelle Krieg