The San Lorenzo Wind Farm and a brighter future for renewable energy

The Province of Guimaras is home to the first wind farm in the Visayas  -- the San Lorenzo Wind Farm which is seen to reduce the region’s greenhouse gas emissions and serve as a tourist attraction at the same time.

The 54 MW San Lorenzo Wind Farm generates 54 megawatts of power and provides such to the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) which then distributes it to many power utilities in Western Visayas, Negros and Cebu.

This Department of Energy-supported wind farm has 27 wind turbines that stand approximately 123 meters tall. Each wind turbine generator (WTG) produces 2 megawatts of power, thus resulting to a total generation capacity of 54 megawatts.



HOW IT WORKS
"All the power from the WTG is brought to the sub-station. Each turbine produces electricity at 690 volts. Electricity then passes through a transformer which steps it up to 22,800 volts and later, to 69,000 volts. All electricity produced is transmitted through the 69KV overhead transmission line to Zaldivar, Buenavista, Guimaras, which then is fed to the 2.8 kilometer submarine cable going to the Cable Terminal Station in Ingore, Lapaz, Iloilo City. The same electricity produced is finally delivered to NGCP sub-station in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo,” according to Engr. Gallego.

The wind turbines are scattered in four barangays in the Municipality of San Lorenzo, namely Suclaran, Cabungahan, M. Chavez and Cabano.

"We target to generate 120 million kilowatts per hour a year," Gallego said.

EXPANSION
The 54 MW San Lorenzo Wind Farm is operated by Trans Asia Renewable Energy Corporation (TAREC), a subsidiary of Trans Asia Oil and Energy Development Corporation, the energy arm of the Phinma Group of Companies.

This project was started in 2007, with a total estimated cost of P6.7 billion. As part of the project, TAREC constructed or improved 15km of roads, a 60MVA substation, a 27km overhead  transmission line and a 3km submarine cable connecting the island of Guimaras to Panay.

TAREC also implemented various programs in education, livelihood and health aimed at making lives better for its host communities, said Atty. Elijo Sharon R. Herrera-Bellones, site lawyer of TAREC.

“TAREC remains committed to the development of renewable energy in the country and looks forward to new opportunities and partnerships in the immediate future,” she added.

TAREC will add 20 more wind turbines through the construction of the Sibunag Wind Farm.  Upon the completion of the Sibunag Wind Farm, a total of 94 MW can be generated, 54MW coming from the San Lorenzo Wind Farm and 40 from the Sibunag Wind Farm.

To guarantee safety, the wind turbines can withstand a 325-km/hour wind and 7.9 Richter scale earthquake.

TOURIST DESTINATION
The 54MW San Lorenzo wind farm is also a tourist destination. Tourists can view the wind turbines at Lookout Point Number Seventeen, an integrated tourism center that TAREC plans to contract by 2nd quarter of 2016. On that area stands one turbine, WTG No. 17.

Standing at its foot could make one feel so small and vulnerable. From the viewing deck, you can see all the rest of the 26 wind turbines comprising the entire San Lorenzo Wind Farm. It is quite windy and dry at the deck, so it is advisable to use a scarf to cover your head and protect your face.

REDUCE GREENHOUSE EMISSIONS
“The 54MW San Lorenzo Wind Farm does not only generate electricity for Guimaras but also contribute to the whole Visayas grid. It is helping reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of the region and is now a major tourism attraction that boosts the economic activities of the island,” said Melvin Purzuelo, coordinator for Green Forum Western Visayas, an organization that advocates for and support environmental concerns and promote alternatives in furtherance of sustainable development, particularly in Western Visayas.

RENEWABLE ENERGY
The San Lorenzo Wind Farm is a testament that the Philippines is rich in renewable energy resources, enough to cater to the country’s needs.

“The Philippines is endowed with vast renewable energy resources in geothermal, hydro, biomass, wind and solar that can produce more electricity than we need. Technology in wind and solar electricity generation has advanced while the cost drastically reduced that these clean renewable energy can now compete with coal,” Purzuelo told this writer.

“Solar energy generation attracted tremendous interests from investors that the DoE has approved 2,000 megawatts (MW) of service contracts by the end of 2015 which is very far more than the agency's target of 285 MW by 2030,” Purzuelo added.

Purzuelo added that the government’s policies on the feed-in-tariff (FIT) and the net-metering which are mandated in the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 (Republic Act No. 9513) have encouraged massive investments on wind and solar.



“The FIT assures the profitability of the big investors of solar and wind farms while the net metering scheme allows households to generate and sell their excess electricity to the distribution utility (like Panay Electric Company or Iloilo Electric Cooperative),” Purzuelo said.

He added that another provision of the RE Law - the renewable portfolio standards (RPS), compels distribution utilities and other industry players to utilize a certain percentage of the electricity from RE.

Section 6 of Republic Act No. 9513 states, “Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). - All stakeholders in the electric power industry shall contribute to the growth of the renewable energy industry of the country. Towards this end, the National Renewable Energy Board (NREB), created under Section 27 of this Act, shall set the minimum percentage of generation from eligible renewable energy resources and determine to which sector RPS shall be imposed on a per grid basis within one (1) year from the effectivity of this Act.”

“The RPS has not yet been fully implemented with PECO as a prime example of a non-compliant distribution utility getting all of its electricity from coal and diesel power plants,” Purzuelo said.

“Citizens should lobby with the ERC and DoE to strictly implement the provision of the RE Law on the RPS. Legal actions should be an option to make sure that distribution utilities like PECO comply with the law,” he further said.

MORE ACCESSIBLE TO HOUSEHOLDS
Filipinos who want to convert to RE can now easily install solar or wind energy systems in their homes, thanks to lending institutions that included this option in their loan packages.

“For most households the initial cost of installing solar or wind energy systems appears prohibitive because they have to advance the expenses for electricity which, generally, can be recovered by them in 4 to 5 years. Fortunately, Pag-ibig, some commercial banks and micro-finance institutions like Lifebank and Taytay sa Kauswagan, are now offering financing for RE installations in their loan packages for house construction and/or improvement," Purzuelo concludes./Kathy Villalon

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