Catanduanes unveils hydro project

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SAN MIGUEL, Catanduanes: Blackouts may soon be a thing of the past here thanks to the new P800-million hydropower plant that will provide the province with clean and sustainable energy and help the government save P200 million in energy costs yearly.

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Bicolano business tycoon Elizaldy “Zaldy” Co said the project would help reduce the province’s dependence on imported fossil fuel which is not only expensive but bad for the environment. It will also increase employment opportunities and attract new investors.

The plant was put up by Suweco, an affiliate of the Sun–west Group of Companies owned by Co. It utilizes runoff freshwater from the mountain and is expected to generate 8.5 megawatts of electricity to prevent blackouts that have crippled the province’s economic growth.

Jose Sylvestre Natividad, Suweco president, said the province’s current energy demand is 6.5 megawatts that grows 10-percent annually.

The project was endorsed by Bishop Manolo de los Santos of Virac to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) six years ago to improve the energy needs of Catanduanes Island.

With the new plant, Catan–duanes now has enough power plants that supply half of the island’s energy demand of 6.5 megawatts. It is also the first province in the Bicol region to provide clean and sustainable energy.

The company’s P314-million hydropower plant in Barangay Solong in San Miguel town has a rated capacity of 2.1 megawatts and its P213-million plant in Barangay Hitoma in Caramoran has a rated capacity of 1.5 megawatts. Suweco’s Solong and Hitoma projects will supply 3.6 megawatts or half of the current demand.

The current main power sources in Catanduanes are the 1.8-megawatt Balungbong mini hydropower plant and the 2.2-megawatt Marinawa diesel plant. Since the Suweco plant produces renewable energy, it will help save the environment and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

In Barangay Solong in San Miguel town, the company also built a dam 2.3 meters deep and 29 meters wide with the 10-kilometer Solong River as its water source. Natividad said the dam is a powerful source of energy.

Bicol’s geothermal and hydroelectric generating plants powers the Luzon Grid. The two major geothermal fields in Bicol are in Tiwi, Albay and in Bacon (Sor–sogon)-Manito (Albay), otherwise known as BacMan operated by the Lopez Group of Companies with a combined installed capacity of 496.20 MW.

Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla said the country faces an energy crisis if freshwater and geothermal fields are not managed properly.

The 2014 United Nations (UN) World Water Development Report said the world’s freshwater resources would suffer from efforts to meet the growing demand for energy.

The UN study presented during the World Water Day celebration held at the United Nations University said nearly one-fifth of the global population or 1.3 billion people do not have access to electricity.

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