NIA eyes more investment in renewable energy

March 1, 2022, 1:10 PM

NIA Central Office – In an article published on the official website of on February 22, 2022, Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III and Senator Panfilo M. Lacson shared their plans on how to address the irrigation problems of the country through a wider state-funded program that would install solar-powered irrigation systems (SPISs) on paddy fields and plantations. The plan is very much aligned with the innovation and modernization thrusts of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), especially on the utilization of irrigation facilities, dams, and reservoirs for renewable energy development.

As the lead government agency mandated to develop all possible sources of water for irrigation, NIA is also embarking on the benefits of developing more floating solar and hydroelectric power projects on its existing irrigation systems and future irrigation projects nationwide for income generation.

Due to Irrigation Service Fee (ISF) exemption of farmers with landholding of eight (8) hectares and below under the Free Irrigation Service Act (Republic Act No. 10969), NIA ventures on the development of hydroelectric power, solar, and floating solar power projects to further strengthen its viability as a Government-Owned and Controlled Corporation (GOCC). It will address both irrigation and renewable energy development concerns of the Filipino communities.

As of December 31, 2021, NIA had already completed 333 solar-powered irrigation projects nationwide amounting to P1,517,533,450.71 that can produce a total of 4,215.33 horsepower (hp) of energy. These projects can irrigate 6,482.62 hectares of agricultural land, benefitting 8,467 farmers and their families. Based on the data, an investment cost of P360,003.48 is necessary to produce one (1) hp and P234,092.61 to irrigate one (1) hectare of agricultural land.

Moreover, a total of 379 potential hydroelectric power sites nationwide were identified by NIA as contribution in providing resources for renewable energy, as well as in maximizing the utilization of irrigation water. Among the potential sites for hydropower development, four (4) are already operational. These are the 8.5-megawatt (MW) MARIS Main (South) Canal Hydroelectric Power in Isabela, 1.0-MW Rizal Hydropower Plant in Nueva Ecija, 1.0-MW Bulanao Mini-Hydropower Plant in Kalinga, and 500-kilowatt (kW) Marbel #1 MHPP in South Cotabato. While the Agency encourages this undertaking, one of the conditions set by NIA is that the project should not, in any way, obstruct irrigation water delivery as the primordial service of the Agency.

NIA also develops floating solar project which have less environmental impact during construction as compared to the land-based installation. 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, which becomes particularly useful in times of drought and El Niño. Similarly, 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. On June 27, 2019, 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. The project design is inspired by the Amazon giant water lily and presents an opportunity to generate clean energy while conserving precious land area that could potentially serve other purposes, particularly for agriculture.

Aside from Magat Dam, there are still other big dams in the country which can also be installed with floating solar power plant, especially the Pantabangan Dam the Province of Nueva Ecija and Jalaur Dam in the Province of Iloilo. Thus, NIA offers its dams and reservoirs for water-based projects which can achieve the same purpose of increasing power production while saving agricultural lands and providing additional income to the government.

At the same time, NIA ventures to solar powered irrigation systems (SPISs) as the Agency started the adoption of the said technology to replace expensive diesel pumps which carries burden on the farmers. These projects are more cost-effective than the fuel-powered irrigation pumps due to the operation costs. SPISs can last for up to 25 years as long as the solar panels are well-maintained. Only batteries, which are locally available, have to be changed every two years. NIA completed an SPIS located in Barangay Pacuan, Malasiqui, Pangasinan that can irrigate 25 hectares of cornfield. The system has five stations, each with 10 panels capable of irrigating three to five hectares of agricultural land. The technology consists of solar panels, pumps, electronic pump controllers, storage tanks, and conveyor systems.

The development and construction of hydropower projects is aligned with Presidential Decree (PD) No. 552 Section 2C, dated September 11, 1974, which gives NIA the directive to achieve the optimum utilization and control of water resources primarily for irrigation purposes, secondarily for hydraulic power development, and for domestic water supply and others.

Cited as the legal basis for these developments are the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 (Republic Act No. 9513) and Mini-Hydroelectric Power Incentives Act (Republic Act No. 7156). In this regard, NIA has issued Memorandum Circular No. 55 series of 2011 which provides the Guidelines on Site Identification and Investigation, and Plant Establishment and Operation for Mini-Hydroelectric Power Projects in NIA-Administered Irrigation Systems.

The 1.0-MW hydropower facility, located near the main canal of Pampanga River Irrigation System (PRIS), known to local residents as Rizal Dam, started its commercial operation in 2017.

The 200-kilowatt pilot floating solar project on a 2,500-square meter area over the Magat Reservoir located in Ramon, Isabela

The completed solar-powered irrigation system located in Barangay Pacuan, Malasiqui, Pangasinan which will irrigate 25 hectares of cornfield in the area


**For questions and/or clarifications, you may contact:

Acting Department Manager
NIA Public Affairs and Information Staff
Landline: (02) 8921-3741 loc. 113