5MW solar power plant in SouthCot to start operation before yearend

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 13 Aug) – Foreign-backed energy firm NV Vogt Philippines Solar Energy One Inc. is targeting to start before yearend the commercial streaming of the initial phase of its P1.3-billion solar power plant project in Surallah town in South Cotabato.

Reynaldo Casas, NV Vogt project president, said the construction of the first 5-megawatt (MW) component of the solar power plant is currently in full swing at its site in Barangay Centrala in Surallah town and is due for completion by November.

He said they already completed the development of the plant’s power substation as well as its office buildings and facilities.

On Wednesday, the company held a formal groundbreaking ceremony for the installation of some 23,000 ground-mounted solar panels at the eight-hectare solar farm.

The event was led by NV Vogt director Vivek Chaudri and joined by local officials headed by South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes, 2nd District Rep. Ferdinand Hernandez and Surallah Mayor Antonio Bendita.

Casas said the solar farm’s development is being handled by technical experts commissioned by the company’s Berlin, Germany-based mother firm ib vogt GmbH.

He said ib vogt personnel started building the solar farm earlier this month and will remain at the site in the next three months.

“We expect the first phase to go on stream commercially by November. So by then, there will an additional 5MW of power to augment the needs of consumers here in South Cotabato,” he said.

The company will begin the development of the 12MW plant’s second phase by next year, he said.

Casas said the power that will be generated by the solar plant will be distributed by South Cotabato 1 Electric Cooperative (Socoteco 1) through its power substation installed at the site.

Santiago Tudio, Socoteco 1 general manager, said the additional power from the solar plant will not only benefit Surallah town but its entire franchise or service area.

He said they expect the streaming of an initial 4MW or 80 percent of the solar plant’s capacity by November.

“We will utilize it to augment our needs during the morning peak hours,” he said.

Tudio said the additional power will help offset the supply shortage currently affecting the area that had forced the electric cooperative to implement hour-long daily rotating outages.

NV Vogt initially launched the project in June 2013 following the signing of a bilateral power-purchase agreement between the company and Socoteco 1.

The electric cooperative serves this city, eight municipalities in South Cotabato and Lutayan town in Sultan Kudarat.

In August last year NV Vogt enlisted Armstrong Asset Management for an investment of $29 million, or roughly P1.3 billion, to fund the construction of the project’s first phase.

At 5 MW, the solar plant’s initial phase would also be the biggest solar photovoltaic power project in the country, surpassing the 1-megawatt solar facility in Cagayan de Oro City.
The company said the project “will be the world’s largest diesel-replacement power plant when it is completed, given that 100 percent of its generated power will replace diesel-generated peak power.”

Gov. Fuentes lauded the company for pursuing the project despite the challenges that it faced with the permitting processes and other requirements.

NV Vogt initially scheduled the plant’s formal groundbreaking last June but deferred the event pending the completion of the plant site’s conversion from agricultural to industrial land.

Bendita said the conversion documents were only released to the company last month.

“We’ve waited for this project to start for quite some time and I’m glad that it will now be realized,” she said.

The Provincial Development Council, which is headed by the governor, had endorsed and gave its full support to the project.

Fuentes said they also saw huge potentials with the venture in terms of job generation, increase in local tax revenues, expansion of eco-tourism opportunities and enhancement of local and foreign investors’ confidence to the area.

Considering the massive investment that the company will contribute to the local economy, the local government initially gave a 10-year tax exemption to NV Vogt as incentive pending the revision of the province’s revenue code.