Costa Rica's president inaugurates Central America's largest hydropower plant

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Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis on Friday inaugurated the 305.5-megawatt Reventazon Hydroelectric plant, which may be the biggest renewable energy project in Central America.

"This magnificent work, the result of many years of effort and labor, fills us with pride, and makes us look at the present and the future with optimism," Solis told officials and guests at the opening ceremony.

The opening was held in one of the water tunnels used to divert water from the Reventazon River during the construction phase. Also attending the opening were the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) chief executive Carlos Manuel Obregon, and Environment Minister Edgar Gutierrez.

Describing the plant as Central America's second-largest infrastructure work after the Panama Canal, Solis gave the order to bring it fully online by switching on the fourth and last turbine.

Work on the 1.4-billion-U.S.-dollar plant in northern Limon province began in 2010. It is expected to power 525,000 homes, providing electricity to roughly a third of all Costa Ricans.

In 2015, Costa Rica generated some 99 percent of its electricity from renewable sources such as hydroelectric plants, wind farms and geothermal plants, said Obregon.

ICE, which will operate the plant, has helped El Salvador and Bolivia develop alternative energy sources, he said, adding that "more than selling our services, we seek to transfer our knowledge."

According to a 2013 press release from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) which financed 200 million U.S. dollars, the project's environmental features could serve as a model for other hydroelectric plants.

"The project will be the first to establish an offset for river habitat in Central America, which could be replicated in other projects throughout the region," the IDB said.

At the opening, the director of the project Luis Roberto Rodriguez said "more than 284,000 animal species were rescued and relocated to safe zones with similar conditions."

The plant, which incorporates 16 Chinese-made floodgates and Austrian-made generators, called for the construction of a 130-meter-high dam, flooding seven square kilometers for the reservoir and diverting more than four kilometers of the Reventazon River. Endi

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