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Mindanao-Visayas power grid link faces delay

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NGCP cites damaged fiber optic submarine cables

A CRUCIAL transmission project that will link the separate power grids of Visayas and Mindanao may not be completed by the end-2021 target date after portions of fiber optic submarine cables were damaged, the grid system operator said on Thursday.

Privately owned National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) in a press release said that it might miss its schedule for the Mindanao-Visayas Interconnection Project (MVIP), which was already pushed back after recent travel restrictions.

The project would connect the grids in Mindanao and Visayas, allowing excess power from both areas to be exported where it is needed, thus helping avoid shortages or thinning reserves.

MVIP, which the Department of Energy certified in 2018 as an energy project of national significance, was slated for completion by December 2020, but was extended to December 2021 due to quarantine restrictions caused by the global health emergency.

In its press release, NGCP said that it discovered that several portions of the submarine cable no. 1 of the MVIP’s Dapitan-Santander 350-kilovolt (kV) high voltage direct current (HVDC) line between Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte and Santander, Cebu were damaged.

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“The submarine cable no. 1 portion of the MVIP’s Dapitan-Santander 350kV high voltage direct current (HVDC) line between Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte and Santander, Cebu, which was completed only on 15 Nov. 2020, was found to have been damaged in several locations,” NGCP said.

According to initial reports that the company received, there was a vessel roaming the area where the first cable was laid a month after the completion of the cable laying activity. NGCP discovered the damage to the first cable, while the second cable was being laid.

“This is an unfortunate circumstance, which may delay the MVIP timeline. NGCP is working on a catch-up plan, given the fragility of handling fiber optic submarine cables,” the system operator said.

To repair the severed portions, NGCP would need to hold another round of procurement, awarding, scheduling of cable laying. It noted that all of these were affected by the quarantine restrictions, which hampered the shipping of cables and the availability of foreign expertise.

It added that the cable laying activity could only be done when weather and tide conditions allowed for it.

NGCP said that it was conducting an investigation to find out if the vessel caused the damage, and who may be responsible for manning it.

Once completed, the MVIP will connect the Visayas and Mindanao grids through a high voltage direct current system with an initial capacity of 450 megawatts.

The project also covers 184 circuit kilometers (ckm) of submarine cables and 526 ckm of overhead wires, which would connect Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte to Santander, Cebu.

Last month, Global Business Power Corp. (GBP), which has an affiliate power company based in Mindanao, said that the timely completion of the MVIP would help power generators in Mindanao to sell excess capacities to wholesale and retail markets in Visayas and Luzon.

GBP earlier said that the projected delays of the MVIP would affect its operations in selling excess power. — Angelica Y. Yang

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