P16-billion US-backed solar power plant to rise in GenSan

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 6 Dec) – A foreign-backed homegrown company is targeting to start in January the development of a 150-megawatt (MW) agrovoltaics solar power plant, touted as a “pioneering” renewable energy project in the country.

Mindanao will have yet another solar power plant, aside from this one in Cagayan de Oro City, but this time a much bigger one. MindaNews file photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Yan Amante, president and chief executive officer of Embrace Nature Power 1 Corporation (ENPC-1), said preparations are underway for the construction of a solar farm and power plant in a 120-hectare property spanning portions of Barangays Conel and Mabuhay here.

She said they are investing around $285 million or roughly P16 billion into the project, which is set to break ground in the third week of January.

“We will be employing 1,500 workers for the construction phase, which will be completed in 12 months,” Amante said in her presentation to the city council on Tuesday.

ENPC-1, which is based in Purok Guadalupe in Barangay Conel, is 60-percent owned by a local company and the 40-percent equity by an undisclosed United States-based funder, she said.

The project area covers a total of 61 hectares in Barangay Conel and 59 hectares in Barangay Mabuhay that are part of a Forest Land Grazing Management Agreement held by the family of Grace Leyson Beronio.

The company has partnered with a Croatian energy firm for the adoption of the agrovoltaics technology for the project, which she said will be among the first of its kind in the country.

Amante said agrovoltaics is primarily a combination of energy and agricultural activity, with the solar panels installed at least two to three meters above the ground and with the land below utilized for growing various crops.

For the Conel-Mabuhay project, she said they are initially planning to plant upland rice and ginger and later on develop a green tea plantation on the ground hosting the over 200,000 solar panels.

“The project adopts a symbiotic design unlike the traditional solar farms wherein the ground remains unused and barren,” Amante said.

It will help mitigate the impact of climate change as well as prevent flashfloods and landslides or erosion, she said.

When eventually operational, the solar power plant would be a cheaper power alternative for local electric cooperatives as its generation charge could only reach P5.90 per kilowatt-hour (kwh), she said.

Amante said that would translate to an actual power rate of P8 to P9 per kwh, which is below the average P10 to P11 rate here charged by South Cotabato 2 Electric Cooperative (Socoteco 2).

It will also benefit other areas in the country as the solar power plant will be connected to the Mindanao power grid through the Mabuhay-Klinan substation of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, she noted.

For the city, Amante said it could earn around P225 million annually in income and corporate taxes in the eighth year of the company’s operations or after the seven-year government tax holiday for renewable energy projects.

The plant will hire 50 local workers for its operations and more manpower, possibly including able senior citizens, for its agriculture projects.

“It can also be promoted for tourism since it is considered as a pioneering project here in the Philippines,” she said.

Vice Mayor Rosalita Nuñez expressed full support to the project, which she described as “something very unique.”

“We’re very happy seeing this project come into fruition… We don’t see any problem passing a resolution interposing no objection for this,” she said, responding to a request from the company made through City Councilor Froebel Kan Balleque.

Records from the Department of Energy showed that ENPC-1 submitted the required permitting documents for the solar power project in March 2018.

The company conducted public consultations last September with residents of the project site and other concerned stakeholders. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)