CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/26 October) – In Barangay Indahag of this port city, one can see row upon row of solar panels tilted towards the skies, drawing electricity from an inexhaustible source of energy: the sun.
The first solar photovoltaic power plant in the Philippines, the facility uses some 6,480 solar panels to draw one megawatt of electricity every day from the sun.
The electricity the facility gets from the sun is channeled to some 800 houses in nearby Barangay Camaman-an, also in Cagayan de Oro, where consumers use it to power their household appliances every day.
Inaugurated on Sept. 26, 2004, the facility is so successful that its owner, the Cagayan de Oro Electric Power and Light Company (Cepalco), is thinking to build a bigger facility in Villanueva town, Misamis Oriental.
“Everyday this facility produces clean, renewable energy. We are operating every day except if it rains,” Oliver Labares, Cepalco staff engineer in charge of the photovoltaic power plant, said.
The facility sits on a two-hectare land in the mountain village of Indahag. It does not need many technical people to run it. Labares only visits it occasionally to see if the inverters are running smoothly.
But it has drawn a lot of visitors, including at least 10,000 students from nearby schools and universities, who are eager to see the potentials of renewable energy.
Cepalco built the solar power plant with a US$4.3-million grant from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). The company provided an additional US$1.3 million as its counterpart to the grant.
Labares said they believe harnessing solar power will be the next wave in the power industry of the future.
“This facility has proven that we can successfully harness the power of the sun. We need to harness its power because our traditional source of energy, hydropower, is no longer dependable because of climate change,” he explained.
Because of its success, Labares said Cepalco is drawing up plans to build a bigger facility, a solar power plant capable of producing 60 megawatts of electricity every day.
He said they have already identified a site for the solar plant, a 60-hectare lot in Villanueva town, Misamis Oriental, adding Cepalco is expected to infuse US $30 million in capital investments for the new facility.
“This 60-megawatt power plant is equivalent to 30,000 barrels of oil every day. That is quite a saving in terms of fossil fuel used,” Labares told MindaNews.
He said the new solar power plant will use 60,000 new silicon solar panels.
“We are just waiting for the National Renewable Energy Board to approve the feed-in tariffs,” he said.
Feed-in tariffs were issued by the Philippine Energy Regulatory Commission to facilitate and infuse investments to the development of renewable energy in the country.
Labares said Cepalco has conducted small experiments on other renewable energy sources like wind, bio-mass and ocean thermal waves but found out that solar power is the only feasible source for Cagayan de Oro.
“For instance, we found that we need three meters of wind energy to move a wind panel but winds around Cagayan de Oro generates only an average of two meters,” he explained.
He said extracting electricity using bio-mass will only be good for the province of Bukidnon, an agriculture-based province. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)