Cloud-seeding mulled to raise water levels at NPC dams

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/09 April) — The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) is studying the possibility of conducting cloud-seeding operations in parts of Bukidnon and Lanao del Norte to help restore the dwindling water levels of the dams running the National Power Corporation’s (NPC) hydroelectric plants in these provinces.

Secretary Luwalhalti Antonino, MinDA chairperson, said Monday they are looking at inducing rains through cloud-seeding as an alternative solution to the declining water inflow at the hydroelectric complexes in the past several weeks as a result of the onset of the summer season.

She said the move is mainly aimed at increasing the capacity of the hydroelectric plants to help ease the worsening daily rotating brownouts in parts of Mindanao.

The official said it would also ensure the availability of enough power supplies for the upcoming May 13 midterm national and local elections.

“(MinDA) is now looking into this. If it turns out positive, we will immediately recommend it to the President,” she said in an interview over ABS-CBN General Santos.

Cloud seeding is the process of manually spreading either dry ice or salt into the upper part of the clouds to help stimulate the precipitation process and form rain.

The operations are conducted by personnel from the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Soils and Water Management through aircrafts commissioned by the agency.

Antonino assured that the national government is giving special attention on the ongoing power shortage, which has triggered prolonged brownouts in parts of Mindanao.

MinDA heads the Mindanao Power Monitoring Committee, a special body that spearheads and coordinates the efforts of the national, regional and local governments, and power industry stakeholders to improve the power situation in Mindanao.

In this city and parts of the neighboring provinces of Sarangani and South Cotabato, distribution utility South Cotabato II Electric Cooperative has been implementing daily rotating brownouts of seven hours each for the area’s two feeder groups or a total of 14 hours.

In the months preceding the May 2010 national and local elections, the area was hit by daily rotating brownouts stretching nine to 12 hours as a mild dry spell then that affected parts of Mindanao caused a significant drop in the levels of water resources running the NPC’s Agus and Pulangi hydroelectric plants.

The two hydroelectric complexes have a combined rated capacity of around 900MW but were eventually reduced then to about half as a result of the dry spell.

In an advisory, NPC said last month that it has launched maintenance works in preparation for the elections.

The Department of Energy (DoE) earlier assured that Mindanao grid will have enough power reserves during the May elections.

In December, the DoE had created a power task force through Department Circular 2012-1211 issued by Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla last December after it was deputized by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for the upcoming polls. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)