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Water relief from power bills

10:29 PM January 29, 2014

At the edge of almost a kilometer stretch of irrigation canal in the interior part of Barangay (village) San Vicente in Baao town, Camarines Sur province, the water drops 3.5 meters, which the village council was able to harness into electricity to light the streets and its session hall.

San Vicente, one of the 30 villages of Baao, is 33 kilometers away from Naga City and has a population of around 5,000. It receives a yearly average of P2 million in internal revenue allotment share in one year, according to its chair, Benjamin B. Blanquera.

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Monthly savings of P8,000 from the power bills allow the barangay to enhance its peace and order situation because more areas are lighted, Blanquera said.

A graduate of electrical engineering, Blanquera had been figuring out since 1991 the possible use of irrigation water to produce electricity when the concept of renewable power sources caught his fancy while reading brochures and catalogues.

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As he observed the flow of irrigation water in the village, it occurred to him that the force from a 3.5-meter drop at the edge of the canal could run a turbine to produce power.

Blanquera, 47, said he experimented floating his slippers on the flowing water to estimate the power it could generate by computing the time lapse. He found that the water could generate more than 100 kilovolt-amperes (kVA).

He invited technical people from the Department of Energy to validate his claim. They came up with almost the same output of electricity he had calculated, he said.

Years back, he had proposed to the municipal council the installation of a mini hydropower plant in that area. It did not gain support until he was elected village chief in 2007, he said.

In 2009, San Vicente officials decided to push through with the project and allot funds every year for its construction. It became operational in December 2011.

The mini hydro plant is composed of a diversion canal that feeds water to three one-foot diameter pipes, to run the turbine.

Blanquera said the barangay council had spent P300,000 for the hydro plant that could light 450 20-watt bulbs to produce 9 kVA electricity out of the potential 100 kVA.

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Its savings from the plant operations for the past two years were spent to put up more streetlights. From 50, San Vicente now has 120 streetlights.

“The savings from the bills for the streetlights are being allotted for a new project which is to generate potable water for the village,” Blanquera said.

A kagawad (local watchman) with an honorarium of P1,000 every month has been assigned as plant caretaker.

Blanquera said the streetlights were still on “standby connection” to the Camarines Sur III Electric Cooperative (Casureco III) grid “in case the power of the irrigation water becomes lower than the expected output of generating electricity.”

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