By Victor V. Saulon, Sub-Editor

MERALCO POWERGEN Corp. (MGen) is venturing into a floating solar energy installation in Laguna Lake, which its president said is a cheaper option for its renewables subsidiary than land-based solar farms.

“We are in the process of applying for a pilot [project] in Laguna Lake,” Rogelio L. Singson, president and chief executive officer of MGen, told reporters.

“We’re looking at 110-megawatt (MW) DC,” he added.

He said for now, MGen will be partnering with a local entity. The project will be under MGen unit MGEN Renewable Energy, Inc. (MGreen).

“Right now, local, but we hope to be able to eventually grow the portfolio. This is under already the MGreen subsidiary, purely renewable ’yun,” he said.

Mr. Singson said he expects the project to be completed in around 10 months, although the initial requirement of the Laguna Lakes Development Authority (LLDA) is for a proponent to first put up a pilot project while the agency is developing the policy governing floating solar installations.

“We are just waiting for the green light to do the pilot,” he said.

Mr. Singson said he did not know the numbers on the costing of the project although he expects this is not as expensive as a land-based solar farm.

“You are able to get away from land conversion,” he said.

Hindi pa kami pumipirma (We haven’t signed anything) but I believe there are four entities that have been granted the right to develop the pilot. We’re talking to one of them,” he said, adding that only one of the four firms has a French component in the project.

Asked whether the entity MGen was talking to is using French technology for its floating solar, he said: “Yes.” He also confirmed the project is the one led by Tetchi C. Capellan, president and chief executive officer of SunAsia Energy, Inc.

“Yes, because they are the ones that have done a big number of floating [projects],” Mr. Singson said.

In an interview last year, Ms. Capellan said she expected an investment of around $850,000 to $1 million per MW for the floating solar energy system it plans to install on Laguna Lake with a French partner.

Ms. Capellan had declined to disclose the capacity of the power system that SunAsia plans to install on the lake, saying it might alarm the LLDA. She placed the installation cost for a ground-mounted solar energy system at around $600,000 per MW.

SunAsia and French company Ciel & Terre (C&T) announced last year their collaboration to introduce the patented Hydrelio technology in the Laguna Lake project. The project is led by SunAsia subsidiary NorteSol.

On Tuesday, MGen formally inaugurated the P56.2-billion San Buenaventura Power Ltd. Co., the country’s first supercritical coal-fired power plant, which now provides additional supply to the Luzon grid.

Meralco’s controlling stakeholder, Beacon Electric Asset Holdings, Inc., is partly owned by PLDT, Inc.,

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls.