FIRST Gen Corp. has been awarded a hydroelectric power service contract by the Energy department to develop a 120-megawatt (MW) pumped-storage hydroelectric facility in Aya, Pantabangan in Nueva Ecija province, the Lopez-led listed company said over the weekend.

First Gen, through its unit First Gen Hydro Power Corp., owns and operates the existing 132-MW Pantabangan-Masiway hydroelectric power plant project in Pantabangan.

Once completed, the Aya project will allow the storage of water pumped into a reservoir for use at a later time. The facility will store and generate electricity by moving a volume of water between two reservoirs situated at different elevations, or upper and lower reservoirs.

“While renewable energy is clean and sustainable, it isn’t always available when it’s needed,” said Ramon A. Carandang, First Gen vice-president for corporate communications. “But 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.” Aside from energy, pumped-storage facilities can be flexibly operated to provide ancillary services to the electricity grid for grid security and stability.

First Gen said the service contract awarded to its unit gives the group five years to conduct pre-development stage activities, from a preliminary assessment and feasibility study up to financial closing and declaration of commerciality.

Through the unit, First Gen earlier signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Irrigation Administration on the development of the same Aya hydro project. First Gen is also pursuing other hydroelectric projects in Bukidnon, and Agusan del Norte.

Aside from hydro-power, First Gen power plants run on natural gas, geothermal, wind and solar. The facilities have a combined capacity of 3,492 MW as of end-2019. — Victor V. Saulon