Project owner NWPDC eyeing new projects in Aparri and Pamplona in Cagayan
Developers get nod for wind farms in Burgos, Pasuquin, Balaoi and Caparispisan
By G Danapal
Facing the wind-lashed Bay of Bangui in northern Luzon’s Ilocos Norte Province in the Philippines, towering windmills rise some 70 metres from the sand-clad beach. They are hard to miss, even for those travelling several kilometers away along the Maharlika coastal highway between Laong and Pagudpud.
These 20 windmills, neatly arranged in an arc across nine barangays, have been a source of pride among the rural folk of the coastal town of Bangui since the tri-blades of the windmills were set in motion in 2005 to generate renewable energy for the province.
Officially known as the NorthWind Bangui Bay Project, these windmills are also a major tourist attraction among visitors who stop by for tequila sunrise or sunset photos. Enterprising locals sell T-shirts, drinks and snacks to capitalise on the growing popularity of the windmills.
The first of its kind in the Philippines and in South-east Asia, the Bangui wind farm’s 20 Vestas wind turbines light up Bangui and supply more than 40% of the needs of the Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative. All in all, these wind turbines generate 25 MW of electricity to power up an estimated 108,000 households.
Just a year into operation, the NorthWind Power Development Corporation (NWPDC), the Manila-based company that runs the farm, reported 70 million pesos (US$1.7 million) in annual savings passed on to consumers in the form of lower electricity tariff.
In March this year, public-listed Ayala Corporation (Ayala Corp) – one of the most reputable conglomerates in the Philippines with vast investments and holdings in the real estate, manufacturing, automotive, electronics, telecommunications and financial sectors, to name a few – acquired 50% of NWPDC for 513 million pesos (US$12 million) via Michigan Power Inc, a wholly-owned unit of Ayala, thus signalling the entry of Ayala Corp into the renewable energy business, seen by energy experts as an attractive investment prospect following the passage of the Philippine Renewable Energy Act, which gives fiscal incentives and priority at the grid to operators of renewable energy power plants.
“We believe there are opportunities to make early stage investments in the renewable energy space, which may have the potential to grow over time given the need to develop alternative sources of energy. In addition to our wind and solar initiatives, we are also developing platforms for hydro-electric power,” says Ayala Corp president and chief operating officer Fernando Zobel de Ayala.
Buoyed by the success of the Bangui wind farm project, which is part of the Pagudpud wind farm initiative designed to improve the livelihood of farmers in the region through efficient use of renewable energy, NWPDC is now going for new wind power projects in Aparri and Pamplona towns in Cagayan province.
In July this year, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos – the daughter of former president Ferdinand Marcos – announced that in a bid to make Ilocos Norte, dubbed “Marcos Country”, the home of renewable energy (RE) in the country, the provincial government had given the green light to three wind power developers – Energy Development Corp (EDC), Energy Logics and UPC Renewables, an affiliate of the Italian UPC Group – to build new wind farms in Burgos, Pasuquin, Balaoi and Caparispisan this year.
Wind power pioneer NWPDC does not see the entry of new players as competition since all energy produced would be sold to the national grid through the wholesale electricity spot market. It is, in fact, glad that its Bangui project has drawn more “green investors’’ into the clean energy generation business.
The Bangui project was drawn up in 1996 through a wind resource analysis and mapping study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The study concluded that various areas in the Philippines are amenable to wind power installation, including Bangui and Burgos towns in Ilocos Norte, Batanes and Babuyan Islands, which are north of Luzon and the higher interior terrain of Mindoro, Samar, Leyte, Panay, Negros, Cebu, Palawan and Eastern Mindanao. This led to the inception of the wind farm project in 1999.
Under the build-operate-and-own scheme, via a US$40 million interest-free loan from the Danish Development Agency (DANIDA), Phase I, comprising 15 wind turbines, was completed with connectivity to the Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative (INEC) grid. On May 8th, 2005, NorthWind began delivering power to INEC.
The Bangui wind farm has been ratified by the NWPDC and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development through the World Bank Prototype Carbon Fund. It was the first project in the Philippines to be part of the Emissions Reduction Purchase Agreement (ERPA) under the Clean Development Mechanism and also the first Philippine company to receive Carbon Emission Reduction Certificates (CERs) from the Executive Board of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The project cost for Phase I came up to US$23 million. Phase II, completed in June 2008 at a cost of US$23 million, added five more wind turbines, raising the total capacity of the project to 33 MW to make Philippines the largest wind-power producer in South-east Asia. Phase III, when completed, will bring the total construction cost for the Bangui Bay Project to US$75 million.
View all contents of September 2011 issue
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