I read in the news that the Board of Investments has granted green lane endorsement for the P22.6-billion Pantabangan Floating Solar Power Plant of Fuego Renewable Energy Corporation (FREC). This means that the process to grant permits and licenses for the project will be expedited. The floating solar project will use 500 hectares of the Pantabangan Lake in Nueva Ecija, or about 12.5% of the 4,000-hectare lake. It will be producing 464 Megawatts alternating current (MWac) of clean power and is scheduled for commissioning next year.
Why floating solar farms? One major hindrance to solar energy is the huge tracts of land needed to put up solar farms. In today’s technology, around one hectare of land is needed for every megawatt (MW) of power. Look at the Raslag’s 23MW solar farm in Mexico, Pampanga which is along the NLEX for you to have an idea of what I’m talking about. The good news is that new solar panels are more efficient and can generate more electricity for the same size. This means new solar farms will require less space.
To maximize the use of land, some countries integrate solar farms and agriculture. Solar panels are elevated to provide space underneath that can be used for planting crops or animal grazing. Another strategy, which by far is the most common, is to install solar panels in bodies of water, hence the term floating solar farms.
The FREC Project is claimed to be the first large scale floating solar farm in the Philippines. There are others that are already operating on a pilot scale. In 2019, SN Aboitiz Power (SNAP) placed 732 solar panels in a 52-meter floating ring in a 2,500 square meter area of the Magat Dam Reservoir. It has a capacity to generate 200-kw of electricity. This small-scale installation is designed to test how the facility will withstand the rain and wind, typhoons, and strong inflows. I learned from an online article that SNAP is conducting a feasibility study for a 67 MW facility.
There’s another pilot project at Laguna Lake installed by SunAsia Energy, a Philippine-based solar developer, and Blueleaf Energy. These companies have been selected by the Department of Energy to build and operate six large-scale floating solar projects at Laguna Lake totaling 610.5MW.
The Ayala-led ACEN Corp. is set to develop its first large-scale floating solar project also on Laguna Lake. The company signed a renewable energy contract area utilization agreement with the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) to lease 800 hectares in the country’s largest freshwater lake. The LLDA is offering 2,000 hectares in Laguna De Bay for floating solar projects.
Another company, Zonal Renewables, has announced plans to construct a 100 MW floating solar power farm in Cadiz city, located in the province of Negros Occidental, Philippines, as reported by the Philippine News Agency. The farm will be built on a 90-hectare fishpond.
(To be continued)