Sunny Ilocos town to feed Luzon grid with solar power

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12:49 AM November 18th, 2012

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By: Cristina Arzadon, November 18th, 2012 12:49 AM

CURRIMAO, Ilocos Norte—A solar power farm that will feed the Luzon grid has broken ground in the sunniest corner of this province—the fishing and farming village of Paguludan.

Facing the West Philippine Sea, Paguludan is best known for its beaches. In 2010 the Philippine Tour Operators Association (Philtoa) declared the town one of the emerging tourist destinations in the country.

The Currimao solar power farm is one of two projects that the Department of Energy (DOE) has approved for Ilocos Norte.

In the pipeline is the 50-megawatt solar power project of Energy Logics Philippines Inc. in the towns of Pasuquin and Burgos.

On Thursday the Korean power company Mirae Asia Energy Corp. (MAEC) and the Ilocos Norte government broke ground to signal the start of the construction of the 20-MW Currimao solar farm on a 60-hectare property here.

The area is within the 150-kilometer stretch of sand dunes in Barangay Paguludan.

With vast open expanses that border on Currimao Bay, the village is a suitable location for a solar power farm.

Albert Sacramed, Paguludan village chief, said life was bound to change for farming and fishing families in his community with the development of the solar power farm.

“We are assured of jobs during the construction period and, [we hope], more reliable and cheaper power for us,” Sacramed said.

The solar power farm is expected to be completed in May 2014, with an initial output of 10 MW in the first phase.

Formerly barren

Currimao Mayor Gladys Go-Cue said the site was formerly covered by a lease agreement between her family and the provincial environment and natural resources office (Penro) for a tree farm that was developed by her father, the late Mayor Ernesto Go, in the 1990s.

“This area used to be a desert. My father began filling it, improved the dirt roads and planted trees during his time as mayor. I feel like he prepared this site for the solar farm,” Cue said.

A portion of the property is now covered with fully grown trees, a requirement for the solar park in addition to abundant sunlight.

Cue’s family also wanted the area to be developed into a resort, but gave up on the development because of inability to meet the investment requirement.

Groundwork for the solar power farm began last year when Gov. Imee Marcos signed an agreement with Korean investor Jongson Bae, MAEC president, for the development of the project.

Marcos said Currimao, with an extended dry season of up to nine months, was the best choice for the project.

“With the solar park, we will establish our claim as the renewable energy center of the country after the wind farm in Bangui and the hydropower source in the towns of Pagudpud and Adams,” Marcos said.

Windmills of Ilocos

Ilocos Norte’s windmills remain the poster image of the Philippines’ renewable energy program, the country’s response to climate change.

When the solar power farm begins operating, Marcos said,  Ilocos Norte will generate 50 percent of its power requirement from clean energy and attract investment.

“It will power up industries in the Currimao port, the best area for passenger and cargo [shipping] in Luzon,” Marcos said.

Marcos said the Paguludan community and outlying villages would benefit from jobs that would be generated by the project.

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