As Spring Breaks are coming to an end and the weather in the mid-west is warming, it always brings us to thoughts of summer. Thoughts of summer bring us to thoughts of warm sandy beaches and sun drenched days, which then bring us back the vacation that just ended or the one we didn’t take or for sure the one we’re planning for next year. In any case, the part the always gets me about beach scenes is the sun. The sand is evident and the smell of coconut oil or even a pina colada might complete the picture, but it’s the sun that always draws us.
In doing a little research for our next spring break, I found some really interesting nuggets regarding solar energy on some of the very islands I’d like to visit. For instance, for all of 2015 and the end of 2014 the island of Costa Rica has been running completely on renewable energy. Thanks to some heavy rainfall this year, Costa Rica’s hydropower plants alone are generating nearly enough electricity to power the entire country. With a boost from geothermal, solar, and wind energy sources, the country doesn’t need an ounce of coal or petroleum to keep the lights on. It’s important to note here that Costa Rica is a small nation of less than 5 million people. Nonetheless, it is a significant feat for a nation of any size to completely do away with the use of fossil fuels.
The U.S. Virgin Islands are also looking into reducing their carbon foot print. The U.S. Virgin Islands are a great place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to pay energy bills there. The tiny U.S. territory in the Caribbean has just 110,000 residents, all the beach, surf, wind and sun you’d ever want, but energy prices that are four to five times higher than are paid in the continental United States. While the USVI are, at this time almost 100% dependent on imported oil for electricity, the local government is committed to reducing the dependence of fossil fuels by 60% in the 10 – 15 years. With and eye toward utilizing solar power and wind power for electrical usage, tourism can stay in tact. The sun shining keeps the solar working which keeps the A/C on high. This works for all of us beach dwellers.
Let’s move on to Mexico. Mexico already leads Latin American in solar production. The main applications of solar energy technologies in Mexico have been for non-electric solar system applications for space heating, water heating and drying crops. Since solar energy is not available at night, most countries utilizing solar have implemented wind energy as well, they’re a great complement to each other.
If you looking to stay more local, try the Jersey Shore. While it might not be a sunny beach, the Jersey Shore Premium Outlet Mall boasts a 335-kilowatt system, which consists of more than 1,300 panels. This system’s power generation is comparable to the energy it would take to power approximately 30 homes for one full year. The Jersey Shore Premium Outlet Center, owned by the Simon Property Group, is proud to be the first of the Simon Centers to utilize solar energy. This of course will lessen it’s carbon footprint and lower it’s energy costs.
When mapping out next year’s spring break vacation, consider visiting places that are eco-friendly. It seems to us that the island users of renewable energy are really very sunny places. So, don’t forget your sunscreen and send us a postcard.