By MYRNA M. VELASCO
Lopez-owned First Gen Corporation has secured a new service contract from the Department of Energy (DOE) for the installation of a 120-megawatt pumped storage hydroelectric power facility in Nueva Ecija.
The proposed Aya hydropower project to be located in Pantabangan will complement the company’s existing 132-MW Pantabangan-Masiway hydropower generating facility in that area.
The Lopez firm has not provided figures yet on the scale of investment, but the rule of thumb for this development generally hovers at $3 million per megawatt. Taking such as a reference without factoring in yet prospective economies of scale, the investment cost for the Aya project could go as high as $360 million.
Based on the service contract granted by the DOE, the Lopez firm will pursue the project’s development via subsidiary First Gen Hydro, which was given five years to conduct pre-development stage activities.
Then from that initial phase, First Gen Hydro will subsequently undertake “preliminary assessment and feasibility study up to financial closing and declaration of commerciality.” The project’s implementation timeframe will be determined based on the outcome of the specified studies to be done.
As designed, the new hydropower facility at its completion “will allow First Gen to store water pumped into a reservoir for use at a later time.”
First Gen Vice President Ricky Carandang noted the stark reality that “while renewable energy is clean and sustainable, it isn’t always available when it’s needed,” hence, the need for project developers to innovate on technology deployments.
He said that in the case of the Aya project, the cyclical availability of generation from hydro could be addressed by the installation of the pumped storage facility.
“With a pump storage facility like the one we want to build in Pantabangan, we will be able to store some of the energy generated by the dam and deploy it when it’s needed,” Carandang said.
As explained by the company, “a pumped storage facility stores and generates electricity by moving a volume of water between two reservoirs situated at different elevations – the upper and lower reservoirs.”
First Gen added “aside from energy, pumped storage facilities can be flexibly operated also to provide ancillary services to the electricity grid,” thus, ensuring stability and reliability of power supply.