Strategic Plan for a Net-Zero Field School in the Taboga Forest Reserve, Costa Rica
Sustainable development is increasingly necessary for businesses and institutions across the globe. University of Michigan Sustainability Without Borders students and Capuchins de Taboga researchers are laying the foundation for a biological research station and field school with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in Costa Rica, a leading nation in sustainability. This study focuses on supplying the site and its expected operations with a sustainable energy supply. A bottom-up energy analysis was performed to determine and project electricity consumption by students and researchers as the field school further develops. HOMER, a microgrid optimization software, was used to determine the microgrid architectures projected to have the lowest levelized cost of electricity. Models for both grid-connected and grid-isolated microgrids were developed to serve as a strategic energy plan and inform the site’s continual development. In addition to installing a pilot solar + storage project to address researchers’ energy security concerns, initial results provide evidence that the site’s energy demand could be supplied economically with a combination of solar, battery storage, and rice and sugarcane biomass resources from surrounding agriculture operations. Upon completion, the net-zero Taboga Research and Education Exchange (T-Rex) will serve as a model for international sustainable research and schooling.