ORMOC CITY, Leyte: Power company Soleq inaugurated on July 23 its solar energy farm located in this city’s Dolores village. It has 98,000 installed solar panels that will produce 30 megawatts (MW) of power into the grid, enough to supply 50,000 households.
The energy farm is yet to operate but Soleq is set to expand with another 30MW, which is welcomed by Energy Officer-in-Charge Secretary Zenaida Monsada, considering her department is still 300MW short of its target of 500MW of solar-produced electricity throughout the country.
A native of Ormoc, Monsada said she was surprised when she first heard of the project in her hometown. “When I was told there was a solar project in Ormoc, I said, why? We have this Tongonan,” she said, referring to the village that is part of the Leyte Geothermal Production Field.
“But then we want to have this balance, [that is,]not to be dependent on just one resource. So if one type of (energy) resource fails, we still have another resource to rely on. So on top of geothermal (power), now you have solar as an additional resource,” she went on.
Monsada lauded Soleq for completing the project in a short time. “One of the reasons why renewable energy projects are not moving that fast is because of many permits,” she explained. “I think you’re lucky because there is no indigenous community here. Because in other areas, they take two years or so just to get the permit because (the procedure) was layered from local to regional to national.”
Craig Mash, director of Soleq narrates that work on the project began 14 months ago while actual development took six months from October 2014 to April 2015. During the peak time of construction, 3,000 workers were hired. Actual operation will require 100 employees.
Craig credits the support of the city government for the release of their permits four days after the application was filed. “We had a huge amount of support from the local government here. From the moment we arrived, we were very much welcome,” he said.
Built for $50 million, the solar farm sits on a 60-hectare property that is leased for 30 years from the family of George Tan. Negotiations with owners of adjacent properties are ongoing in preparation for expansion. Soleq is also contemplating on venturing into wind-energy production.