An Industrial Microgrid in Costa Rica Offers Cost-Reduction and a Path to Carbon-Neutrality


A hybrid energy system at a manufacturing facility not only helps reduce energy costs and emissions, but also has far-reaching carbon reduction benefits, and positions Costa Rica as a leader in the fight against climate change.

Costa Rica is a natural wonderland. One-quarter of the country’s land area is made up of protected rainforests, volcanoes, jungles, and beaches, which are home to an abundance of wildlife—from monkeys and sloths to 900 different bird species.

Within the past five years, the Costa Rican government has worked to align the country’s national priorities with global climate action. In 2019, it outlined an ambitious approach to climate change, called the National Decarbonization Plan 2018-2050, which includes strategies for all sectors of the economy, setting the country on a course to be completely carbon-neutral by 2050. A strong area of focus is on emissions reduction and renewable power generation for private companies.

Proquinal Aims for Energy Efficiency and Cost-Savings

Proquinal, a textile company in Alajuela, near San Jose in central Costa Rica, faced high energy costs due to high tariffs during periods of peak demand. The company, part of the Spradling Group, produces coated fabrics for high-performance markets such as hospitals, school buses, stadiums, airports and hotels. Its leadership team sought the cost-savings benefits of onsite generation and energy storage, saw value in reducing the facility’s carbon emissions as well as contributing to Costa Rica’s carbon-neutral goals. So in 2019, Proquinal contracted Rolls-Royce, known for its product and solution brand mtu, to develop an efficient, cost-effective solution.

Evaluating Options for Optimal System Design

Consulting engineers modeled a variety of scenarios using HOMER Grid in order to determine the optimal hybrid system configuration of generation resources paired with energy storage. 

“HOMER Grid perfectly complements our inhouse simulation toolchain and is very helpful to quickly identify potential cost savings in energy systems facing complex tariff structures,” stated Dr. Niko Mittelmeier, Head of Sizing & Simulation from Rolls-Royce.

Ultimately, the team determined that a hybrid energy system that included on-site solar generation and battery energy storage would provide time-shifting capabilities to reduce energy costs and lower the facility’s carbon emissions. Proquinal contracted with Rolls-Royce and solar developer Swissol to commission the project. Today, it is considered the largest integrated energy system in Costa Rica.

A Hybrid System with Sophisticated Components

The microgrid, which came online in December of 2020, is made up of two 40-foot mtu EnergyPacks from Rolls-Royce, battery containers that house Samsung Li-Ion NMC batteries with a total storage capacity of 4,275 kWh and an output of 1,500 kVA.  The batteries are supported by onsite solar generation from 690 photovoltaic panels installed on covered parking spaces with a total capacity of 255 kWp.

A built-in mtu EnergyPack microgrid controller ties the system together by communicating with each of the microgrid components. It monitors the status of the load, battery levels, and individual resources and optimizes the energy flow accordingly to provide the highest level of safety, power quality, availability and cost-efficiency.

The batteries are charged from the grid during afternoon and nighttime hours during favorable electricity tariff periods. The stored energy is used for the factory’s textile production process during the two peak periods in the morning and evening, when energy costs are highest.

Time-shifting Provides Economic Value and Efficiency

The microgrid allows the factory to operate independently from the grid for five hours each day to avoid high tariffs during peak demand periods. Since electricity is 4.5 times more expensive during peak hours than the nighttime rate, this time-shifting capability offers significant economic benefits. In fact, Proquinal estimates that the microgrid will allow the company to save approximately US $41,000 per month, allowing investment payback within 4.3 years.

The system’s time-shifting capability also has a positive environmental impact. By pairing solar power and energy storage technologies with a smart controller, Proquinal estimates that the microgrid helps the manufacturing facility avoid approximately 285 tons of CO2 emissions per year.

“The smart use of energy with our new system is a great step forward towards clean and affordable electricity generation and a contribution to a better use of renewable energy in the country,” said Moisés Hernández, General Director of Proquinal in Costa Rica in a news release.

Beyond localized emissions reduction, microgrids such as the one installed in Proquinal also have a broader positive effect. Costa Rica’s energy portfolio is 98.84% renewable generation, with hydroelectric providing 67.5% of the power. During the dry season, however, energy demand is so high that thermal peaker plants which run on fossil fuels must come online to meet demand. Microgrids such as the one installed at Proquinal can help reduce power demand from the grid so that during periods of high-demand, fewer peaker plants are needed, burning less fuel and reducing CO2 emissions.

In this sense, the Proquinal microgrid is not only leading the way to a cleaner energy future for Costa Rica, it’s positioning the nation as an international leader in the fight against climate change.  

UL Solutions HOMER Grid is a market-leading solar-plus-storage software tool for designing grid-tied distributed energy systems. With an integrated utility tariff database and a new module for electric vehicle charging stations, it optimizes peak shaving to help commercial and industrial utility customers lower their demand charges. HOMER Grid can model projects with wind and combined heat and power as well as islanded systems, helping users improve their resiliency. Explore your opportunities with HOMER Grid during a complimentary trial. Learn more and download your complimentary trial.