Lopez group expanding solar capacity in Ilocos

by Myrna Velasco, 10 May 2015
from Manila Bulletin

The Lopez conglomerate is initially planning an expansion of 30 megawatts for its solar capacity, but it is also keen on hitting the utmost on sun’s development potential with planned 150 to 200 megawatts aggregate installation.

Energy Development Corporation (EDC) President Richard B. Tantoco has noted that their propounded solar capacity expansion could be strategically sited nationwide.

For the year, however, the concentration will be on the initial 30 megawatts of photovoltaic solar facility that they can conveniently install adjacent to a site of their existing 4.0MW capacity in Burgos, Ilocos Norte.

COMBINED WIND AND SOLAR FARMS – Photo shows the 4.1-megawatt (MW) solar farm installed under the 150-MW wind farm in Burgos, Ilocos Norte is the first of its kind combination of two renewable energy sources all over the world that simultaneously operate to generate power supply. (Photo by Freddie G. Lazaro)

According to EDC vice president for corporate finance Erwin O.  Avante, “with the flat area that is already available, that would be 30 megawatts in Burgos.”

The installation cost per megawatt is seen at $1.8  million – so the 30MW development would call for an investment of over P2.0 billion.

On the firm’s existing solar generation, Avante noted that the facility’s contribution to their top line had been at P50 million to P60 million annually.

As to the planned expansion, Avante noted that “the challenge to make it work is: you need to have the perfect formula which is high irradiance, good site close to a transmission line and cheap land.”

He added that the interesting points along development terrain in solar energy have been that “we are seeing other rates similar to what happened on wind.”

The EDC executive further indicated that “it seems that there’s a lot of posturing but let’s see how it ends up.”

The Lopez group’s competitive psyche is apparently up again on the solar sphere – lest other industry players forget that they brought the biggest wind capacity to the finish line within the ethos of the feed-in-tariff (FIT) availment.

Aggressiveness on solar investments had been seen kicking in following the Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval of the second wave of solar FIT rate that was pegged at P8.69 per kilowatt hour.

The developers who would eventually corner such financial incentive are still unknown, but what is certain at this point is that the new FIT stirred fresh round of excitement among investors.

On questions whether FIT incentives are still needed considering the reverse track being taken by other markets, Tantoco has explained that “for us, we have to factor in things that the others are not.”

He stressed that “we have so much taxes and we need to build our own transmission lines,” noting that in other countries like Chile, “when they (projects) are built, it’s the government that builds and the cost of land acquisition is different.”

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