The Department of Agriculture (DA) has launched a micro hydroelectricity project in San Mateo, Isabela as part of a pioneering program aimed to address high cost of electricity and insufficient power supply in remote areas in the country.
With funding from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the DA-National Irrigation Administration and the Department of Energy has started the construction of a micro hydropower plant at the Lateral B Canal of Magat River Integrated Irrigation System (NIA-MARIIS) in Barangay San Marcos in San Mateo.
The micro hydropower plant is expected to generate 45 kilowatts of power, which is equivalent to 236,000-kilowatt hours (kWh) annually.
Cheap and efficient, it will be a run-off river power generation using two Japanese-made turbines to be installed in the irrigation canal. As such, it will showcase the viability of sourcing hydropower from low-head irrigation canals commonly found throughout the country.
Upon completion in November 2014, around 500 households from Barangay San Marcos and nearby Barangay Villafuerte will be able to get affordable electricity from the facility—the first in the country and thus serves as a pilot for soon-to-be-undertaken DA-NIA mini-hydro water projects.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said that farmer-members of MARIIS will ultimately manage the facility, adding that the cooperative can use their earnings from power generation to purchase new farm equipment and other production inputs so they become more productive and earn more.
Besides MARIIS, there are 147 other sites nationwide initially identified by NIA as possible location for minihydro dams which can generate altogether an estimated 28 megawatts of electricity.
These projects will be undertaken through joint venture agreements with both local and foreign investors—including Koreans, Germans and the Chinese.
Within MARIIS alone, NIA is looking at developing 17 more potential sites.
In 2012, DA-NIA announced its intention to establish mini hydropower plants at major irrigation facilities all over the country, in a bid maximize the use of water resources before reaching the farmlands.
Facilities such as that will also give highland farmers the opportunity to use not only affordable electricity but also reliable irrigation and potable water supply.