MORE floating solar and hydroelectric power projects are being planned at sites to be selected by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

According to studies conducted by the NIA, a total of 379 sites have the potential to be developed for hydro, thereby maximizing the utilization of irrigation water.

Among the potential sites, four are now operational — the 8.5 megawatt Magat River Irrigation System (MARIS) Main South Canal Hydroelectric Power in Isabela, the 1 megawatt Rizal Hydropower Plant in Nueva Ecija, the 1 megawatt Bulanao Mini-Hydropower Plant in Kalinga, and the 500 kilowatt Marbel No. 1 Mini-Hydropower Plant in South Cotabato.

The NIA said that while it encourages the establishment of more hydroelectric sites, it said projects should not disrupt the delivery of irrigation water to farms.

Meanwhile, NIA said that aside from Magat Dam, where a 200 kilowatt pilot floating solar project has been installed, other dam reservoirs hold the potential to host floating solar projects, including Pantabangan Dam and Casecnan Dam in Nueva Ecija.

The NIA said that floating solar projects have less environmental impact compared to land-based solar installations due to minimal use of heavy equipment.

“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,” the NIA said.

“The agency offers its dams and reservoirs for water-based projects which can achieve the same purpose of increasing power production while saving agricultural land and providing additional income to the government,” the NIA said.

Another renewable technology is solar powered irrigation systems (SPIS) which aim to replace traditional diesel pumps.

The NIA said that SPIS have lower operating costs compared to diesel and are built to last for up to 25 years as long as the solar panels are maintained properly.

One SPIS has been completed in Malasiqui, Pangasinan, irrigating 25 hectares planted to corn.

The NIA has also started installing the P3.56 million Isumbo Pump Irrigation Project. It is the first solar-powered irrigation pump in Sofronio Española, Palawan.

The system is capable of producing 100 gallons of water per minute and is expected to irrigate 10 hectares.

The NIA said its activities are authorized by Presidential Decree No. 552, issued on Sept. 11, 1974, which gave NIA control over the utilization of water resources primarily used for irrigation. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave