Construction of PH’s largest solar power plant slated in September–exec

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/28 June)—Construction of the largest solar power plant in the country estimated to cost P1 billion is scheduled to start in September and expected to go on stream by January 2014, an official said Friday.

The renewable energy project will be located in a 20-hectare property in Surallah town in South Cotabato, said lawyer Antonio Bendita, the incoming town mayor.

“This will be a big boost to our town through the employment and revenue that the project will generate,” he said in a radio interview.

Bendita said the solar power facility will rise along the road in Barangay Tubi-allah, adding they expect it to become an ecotourism attraction of the locality.

The facility will produce power for the South Cotabato I Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Socoteco I), he said.

The supply contract has been signed last Wednesday between Socoteco I and NV Vogt Philippines Solar Energy One, Inc., Bendita added.

At five MW, it would be the biggest photovoltaic (PV) power project in the country once completed, surpassing the one-megawatt solar facility in Cagayan de Oro City.

Socoteco I, which serves this city, the seat of government of Region 12, eight other towns in South Cotabato and Lutayan in Sultan Kudarat, has a daily peak power demand of 32 MW.

Santiago Tudio, Socoteco I general manager, said their contract with the National Power Corp. (Napocor) is ending this August, and the cooperative has been looking for suppliers as the state-owned power company reportedly indicated it would no longer renew its 20-MW allocation to the cooperative.

Napocor operates the Agus and Pulangi hydropower plants, which supply half of Mindanao’s power needs.

Tudio said earlier they are working for the acquisition of diesel-fired modular generator sets that could produce 15 MW to offset the projected supply shortfall with the end of the three-year contract with Napocor in August.

Napocor started reducing its allocation to electric cooperatives in Mindanao last year due to the declining capacity of its hydropower plants in Bukidnon and Lanao del Norte.

Daily rotating brownout lasting up to eight hours hit some parts of the island months ago and the interruptions are expected to be back in August to December due to the scheduled preventive maintenance shutdowns of power plants.

As alternative solution to the Mindanao problem, the Department of Energy has offered a loan scheme that will allow electric cooperatives in Mindanao to acquire their own modular generator sets.

Under the scheme, which will be coursed through National Electrification Administration, Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said electric cooperatives will be given a grace period of two years wherein they will only be required to pay for the loan’s interest.

After two years, he said the cooperatives will have an option to pay for the loan principal and interest or completely waive any further payment by returning the generator sets to NEA. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)