SunAsia Energy is rolling out a 55-megawatt (MW) solar power plant that combines agriculture and solar energy.
Tetchi Capellan, former agriculture undersecretary and SunAsia Energy president, said the first-of-its-kind PV power plant is set to be constructed in September in Toledo City in Cebu Province.
She said the project will upgrade the current 111-hectare of pastureland owned and operated by Baltao Farms.
The Department of Energy (DOE) in May endorsed to the Board of Investments (BOI) this unique approach to solar energy development as “it harmonizes agribusiness with renewable energy infrastructure and operations.”
The DOE encouraged the granting of incentives to such a project because it preserves existing land use and ensures continuity of food production.
Describing the project as creative and climate-sensitive, Capellan said the plant design alone affirms the project’s commitment to food production and good agriculture practices.
“A global design team was organized to configure the best plant layout so that the facility retains the existing stocking density as well as the land use,” she said.
She said engineers selected high-performance panels to optimize the land. Panels with 300Wp [watt peak capacity]to 320Wp were used to capture more sunlight per square meter of land.
“By doing this, the grazing areas are largely kept. In addition, the panels are to be adequately raised off the ground, enough to allow small animals to graze the open spaces,” she said.
According to SunAsia Energy, a land use plan was prepared alongside the design and engineering of the solar farm.
SunAsia Energy worked closely with Baltao Farms and the livestock advisors to balance the engineering requirements of the solar farm with livestock management.
“Efforts were exerted by the design team to integrate agricultural practices with solar plant construction, specifically by selecting the grass variety that is applicable for pasture development and soil cover in the plant site,” said Capellan.
Also, vegetation in the farm was carefully chosen to optimize the production of feeds under shaded areas occupied by the modules.
In terms of the spacing of the solar arrays, she said it was also arranged to allow small livestock to roam in the solar grazing area and to take shelter underneath the panels for protection from adverse weather.
“In short, each aspect in the farm was well considered in the engineering and design of the Toledo Solar Power Plant to create a habitat that supports the living conditions of the animals and satisfies the maintenance requirements of the plant site,” she said.