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SNAP set to finish floating solar power project by early 2019

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By Victor V. Saulon, Sub-editor

SN Aboitiz Power (SNAP) expects to complete by early next year its pilot floating solar project on Magat dam in partnership with state-led National Irrigation Administration (NIA), its top official said.

“What we want to do is number one: make sure it works; and number two: stress test it,” Joseph S. Yu, SNAP president and chief executive officer, said during a gathering with reporters on Wednesday night.

He said the pilot project, which will initially have a capacity of 200 kilowatts, will be used by SNAP for its own power requirements. It is being deployed at the Magat dam in Isabela, where SNAP has an existing project.

“If it’s viable, siyempre (surely) we would want to scale it up. My feeling is you can scale it up as quickly as you can,” he added.

The SNAP group, the joint venture of Norway’s SN Power AS and Aboitiz Power Corp., owns a number of hydroelectric power plants in North Luzon.

Under SN Aboitiz Power-Magat, Inc., it operates the 380-megawatt (MW) Magat hydroelectric power plant at the border of Isabela and Ifugao. Its 8.5-MW Maris Main Canal 1 hydroelectric power plant started commercial operation in November last year.

“We feel floating [solar] has a place in the portfolio because we want to provide a solution for the country to not have to give up agricultural land and trade it for energy security,” Mr. Yu said.

In June, NIA announced it was venturing into floating solar power projects in its dams and reservoirs with a proposal from SNAP.

NIA said SNAP would conduct a 2,500-square meter pilot project over the reservoir. It described the project as a small-scale preliminary study before a possible large-scale project. The initial project will feature solar panels fixed to floats on the water surface.

The government agency said Magat dam has a reservoir of 4,500 hectares, thus if 200 hectares will be utilized for water-based solar power, 200 MW will be generated and 200 hectares of agricultural lands will be saved.

NIA said the project could be beneficial to the government by providing additional income.

The floating solar facility can prevent the decrease of the water level in the dams and reservoirs due to evaporation, it said. It can also provide sanctuary for marine life as it prevents fishes and other species from dying due to hot temperature, it added.

“It’s one of the three reservoirs we manage,” AboitizPower Chief Operating Officer Emmanuel V. Rubio told reporters. “The reservoir is not owned by NIA. The permit is with NIA.”