NIA Harnesses Renewable Energy

Wednesday, July 22, 2020 - 13:49


NIA Central Office – Heeding the call of the National Government to strengthen the viability of Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs), the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) is embarking on the benefits of developing more floating solar and hydroelectric power projects on its existing irrigation systems and future irrigation projects nationwide.

According to the studies conducted by the Agency, there are a total of 379 identified potential hydroelectric power sites nationwide 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 NIA 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.

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.

Compared to land-based solar installation, floating solar projects have 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, 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.

Aside from Magat Dam, there are still other big dams in the country which can also be installed with floating solar power plant, such as Pantabangan Dam and Casecnan Dam in the Province of Nueva Ecija. 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 NIA Ilocos Region started the adoption of the same to replace expensive diesel pumps. The Agency has completed a system in Barangay Pacuan, Malasiqui, Pangasinan to irrigate 25 hectares of cornfields. 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 project is more cost-effective than the fuel-powered irrigation pumps due to operation costs. SPIS 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.

In addition, NIA also started the installation of the P3.557-million Isumbo Pump Irrigation Project (Isumbo PIP), the first solar-powered irrigation pump in Barangay Isumbo, Sofronio Española, Palawan. The project implementation commenced on May 29, 2020 after being awarded to the Contractor, Reinastar Trading and Construction Supply.

Isumbo PIP covers the installation of a solar-powered pump, pump house, control panel, accessories, and 0.399 kilometers of canal lining to be completed in 120 calendar days. With 3728.5 watts or five horsepower (hp) submersible pump motor capable to produce 100 gallons of water per minute (gpm), the project is expected to sufficiently irrigate 10 hectares of agricultural lands in the barangay, benefitting 13 farmers and their families. The completion of the project can help diversify agricultural production. It was designed as an energy-efficient project that has the ability to pump up water from the source to an elevated storage tank and releases by gravity directly to irrigated areas.

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

The ongoing installation of Isumbo Pump Irrigation Project, the first solar-powered irrigation pump located in Barangay Isumbo, Sofronio Española, Palawan

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

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