The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and SN Aboitiz Power Group (SNAP) switched on the 200-kilowatt pilot floating solar project on a 2,500-square meter area over the Magat reservoir on June 27, 2019 in Ramon, Isabela.
Maximizing the utilization of its irrigation facilities is one of the projects of NIA Administrator Ricardo R. Visaya such as developing its dams and reservoirs for renewable energy. In response to such project, SNAP constructed a pilot floating solar project at the Magat reservoir. It is the first of its kind over a NIA facility in the country and SNAP’s first floating solar project.
The project presents an opportunity to generate clean energy while conserving precious land area that could potentially serve other purposes, particularly for agriculture.
In his message, Administrator Visaya said, “I shared also to them (SNAP) my concern about some agricultural lands being converted into solar fields. I wanted to save these agricultural lands. If this (land-based solar installation) will continue, then there will be no more areas to be irrigated.”
Compared to land-based solar installation, this floating solar project has less environmental impact during construction. This is because there is no massive earth moving and minimal use of heavy equipment.
The solar panels installed over the reservoir can help reduce the amount of water lost due to evaporation. This becomes particularly useful in times of drought and El Niño.
Moreover, such facility can also provide sanctuary for marine life that cannot survive in very hot temperatures. Floating solar panels will provide shade that can inhibit the growth of harmful algae. Also, the panels are intentionally spaced-out so that there can still be enough sunlight that can filter through for fish and other organisms to grow.
The pilot floating solar project consists of 720 solar panels on a circular installation held in place by four mooring systems. Its design is inspired by the Amazon giant water lily. This will undergo a 10-month stress test to ensure that the facility can withstand strong typhoons before expanding to a commercial capacity. SNAP President and CEO Joseph S. Yu said, “As we go into the wet season, we will get to test how well it will withstand the rain and the wind speed.”
NIA Administrator Visaya shared how Magat reservoir can contribute a lot to the country’s electrification program through the floating solar. He said, “Thinking ahead, this Magat (reservoir) has an area of 4,500 hectares and we would like this to be converted into a renewable energy complex. If we can make a floating solar field of 200-300 hectares, that will still be small here, considering that this is 4,500 hectares, then this will be the biggest source of power in our country.”
Administrator Visaya concluded his message saying that this floating solar project can be replicated in more than 350 dams of NIA nationwide. In this way, NIA can help solve the country’s problem in electricity while preventing the conversion of agricultural lands into solar fields.
Cabinet Secretary and Chairman of NIA Board Karlo Alexei B. Nograles said in his message that an important role of NIA is to maximize the use of its assets that will bring down benefits to the Filipinos and the Agency as well.