NIA on renewable energy: 4 hydropower sites, pilot floating solar project already operating

Published July 18, 2020, 2:56 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) has cited its contributions to provide resources for renewable energy, as well as maximize the utilization of irrigation water through its existing systems and future projects nationwide.

National Irrigation Administration (MANILA BULLETIN)

NIA said that of the total 379 potential sites for hydropower development, four are already operational.

These are the 8.5-megawatt (MW) Magat River Irrigation System Main (South) Canal Hydroelectric Power in Isabela, 1.0-MW Rizal Hydropower Plant in Nueva Ecija, 1.0-MW Bulanao  mini hydropower plant (MHPP) in Kalinga, and 500-kilowatt (kW) Marbel #1 MHPP in South Cotabato. 

While NIA encourages this undertaking, one of the conditions it has set is that the project should not, in any way, obstruct the delivery of irrigation water to farmlands.

On June 27, 2019, NIA and SN Aboitiz Power Group (SNAP) switched on the 200-kilowatt pilot floating solar project on a 2,500-square meter area over the Magat reservoir on June 27, 2019 in Ramon, Isabela. 

NIA said the project design is inspired by the Amazon giant water lily and presents an opportunity to generate clean energy while conserving precious land area that could potentially serve other purposes, particularly for agriculture.

“Compared to land-based solar installation, floating solar projects have less environmental impact during construction. This is because there is no massive earth moving and minimal use of heavy equipment,” it explained.

“The solar panels installed over the reservoir can help reduce the amount of water lost due to evaporation, which becomes particularly useful in times of drought and El Niño. Similarly, the panels are intentionally spaced-out so that there can still be enough sunlight that can filter through for fish and other organisms to grow,” it added.

Aside from Magat Dam, NIA said there are still other big dams in the country which can also be installed with floating solar power plant, such as Pantabangan Dam and Casecnan Dam in Nueva Ecija. 

NIA has offered its dams and reservoirs for water-based projects which can achieve the same purpose of increasing power production while saving agricultural lands and providing additional income to the government.

At the same time, NIA ventured on solar-powered irrigation systems (SPISs) to replace expensive diesel pumps. 

It has already completed a system in Barangay Pacuan, Malasiqui, Pangasinan to irrigate 25 hectares of cornfields. 

NIA said the system has five stations, each with 10 panels capable of irrigating three to five hectares of agricultural land. 

The technology consists of solar panels, pumps, electronic pump controllers, storage tanks, and conveyor systems. 

It added that the project is more cost-effective than the fuel-powered irrigation pumps due to operation costs. 

SPIS can last for up to 25 years as long as the solar panels are well-maintained. Only batteries, which are locally available, have to be changed every two years.

In addition, NIA also started the installation of the P3.557-million Isumbo Pump Irrigation Project (Isumbo PIP), the first solar-powered irrigation pump in Barangay Isumbo, Sofronio Española, Palawan. 

The project implementation commenced on May 29, 2020 after being awarded to the contractor, Reinastar Trading and Construction Supply.