So the first part of The Plan went off without a hitch. Driving southeast from the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose, into the Talamanca mountain range, we easily found the Los Santos wind farm along the highway and stopped to take some photos and video. I was pretty excited to see the project after a couple months of planning; these were THE wind turbines generating the carbon-free electricity that offset the carbon emissions from our vacation travel.
The weather up in the mountains was cloudy and cool, but pleasant. Although the wind wasn’t strong, it was blowing hard enough to keep the giant turbines whirring around at a good pace. Their size was certainly impressive; we have wind farms in Michigan too, but I have never been so close to an operating turbine. Despite being just built in 2011-12, the towers were already colonized with some algae or lichen that gave them the appearance of being settled into the landscape.
I wanted to nerd out further and interview random locals just down the road from the turbines, but I didn’t want to overextend the grace given to me by my traveling companions (my wife and our friend). This was a vacation, after all! So, unfortunately, I can’t give you great insight into how the locals feel about the wind farm. My hope is that they feel proud of their clean source of energy and its local ownership, rather than suffer from the “not-in-my-backyard” opposition that many wind projects in the U.S. encounter.
But it’s important to take a step back and unpack the claim that my carbon credit purchase actually makes a difference in the fight against climate change. This is the second, and more difficult part of The Plan. How is it that I can say the CO2 that came out of some jet engines in March was compensated by the presence of a wind farm that was built years earlier? Did my carbon credit purchase really support this wind farm? Did the money I paid adequately compensate the planet for the damage my travel caused?