Cloud seeding to cut outages by 2 hrs

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DAVAO CITY—The Mindanao Development Authority (Minda) wants to reduce by two hours the rotating brownouts in Mindanao by conducting cloud-seeding operations over Lake Lanao.

Minda Secretary Luwalhati Antonino said her office will conduct cloud seeding to boost the lake’s water level to immediately address the current power shortfall causing rotating brownouts in Mindanao.

Since the start of the summer months, the water level of Lake Lanao had been declining and is fast approaching the critical level of 699.15 meters above sea level (masl), according to a press statement from the National Power Corp. (Napocor).

Lake Lanao powers the Agus hydropower complex in Lanao and remains one of Mindanao’s major sources of electricity, contributing up to 40 percent of electricity to the Mindanao grid.

Napocor said it has projected that the critical level will be reached by May if not enough rains were experienced in Lanao.

The state-run power generation company said it will be forced to shut down the operation of the Agus plants if the lake’s elevation falls below 698.15 masl.

Even when the lake is still capable of churning out 85 cubic meters per second, power outages are already being experienced in Mindanao. In some areas, the power outages would last up to eight hours.

Napocor said what it is doing now to prevent the water level from going below the critical level is to control the flow of water out of the lake.

Antonino said the government saw the need to conduct cloud-seeding operations over the lake to prevent longer hours of power outages because it is quicker, in terms of bridging the power supply shortfall in Mindanao.

“Cloud seeding is among the recent recommendations presented to the President,” she said, adding that the plan will be carried out with the Department of Agriculture (DA).

But Antonino clarified that the government has not run out of ideas to address the power crisis.

She said power barges will be brought to the island.

Antonino said the private sector is also helping and among the solutions seen is to build more coal-fired power plants.

New power plants being built will start operation by 2015, she added.

Antonino said Minda has sent a team of experts to Lake Lanao from the DA’s Bureau of Soils and Water Management “to assess the viability of present cloud formation for cloud seeding.”

If things go well, Antonino said the cloud-seeding operation could start immediately.

Cloud seeding will hopefully improve the lake’s water level, to allow the flow of water into the plant at 100-120 cubic meters per second, a rate expected to result in increased generating capacity for the Agus hydro facility from 450 MW to 500 MW, she said. Allan Nawal and Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao

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