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Microhydro plant soon to rise in San Mateo, Isabela

A small farming community in Isabela on Cagayan Valley presents one possible solution to concerns of insufficient power supply: generate hydroelectric power through irrigation water.
The Department of Agriculture in a statement said that Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and officials of the National Irrigation Administration and Department of Energy launched on Tuesday a microhydro project at the Lateral B Canal of NIA-MARIIS NIA-Magat River Integrated Irrigation System (NIA-MARIIS) in Barangay San Marcos in San Mateo, Isabela. Funded through a grant from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the project is being jointly undertaken by DA-NIA and DOE.

DA said the microhydro plant is expected to generate 45 kilowatts of power, which is equivalent to 236,000 kilowatt hours (Kwh) annually. Cheap and efficient, it will be a run-off river power generation using two Japanese-made turbines to be installed in the irrigation canal. As such, it will showcase the viability of sourcing hydropower from low-head irrigation canals commonly found throughout the country. Upon completion in November this year, around 500 households from Barangay San Marcos and nearby Barangay Villafuerte will be able to get affordable electricity from the facility – the first in the country and thus serves as a pilot for soon-to-be-undertaken DA-NIA mini-hydro water projects.

Secretary Alcala, in his remarks, lauded NIA, DOE and JICA for working together to make the project a reality.

What makes the project unique and participatory is that farmer-members of MARIIS will ultimately manage the facility. Secretary Alcala said farmers can use their earnings from power generation to purchase new farm equipment and other production inputs so they become more productive and earn more.

Besides MARIIS, there are 147 other sites nationwide initially identified by NIA as possible location for minihydro dams which can generate altogether an estimated 28 megawatts of electricity, Administrator Claro Maranan said at the launching ceremony. These projects will be undertaken through joint venture agreements with both local and foreign investors, possibly Koreans, Germans and the Chinese with whom NIA has been talking to. Within MARIIS, NIA is looking at developing 17 more potential sites.

Experts define microhydro power plants as those generating less than 100 kilowatts of electricity. By way of comparison, a minihydro plant generates about 1 megawatt, or 10 times as much energy as the biggest microhydro power plant.

In 2012, DA-NIA announced its intention to establish minihydro power plants at major irrigation facilities all over the country, in a bid maximize the use of water resources before reaching the farmlands. Facilities such as that will also give highland farmers the opportunity to avail themselves not only affordable electricity but also reliable irrigation and potable water supply.

Project Formulation Adviser Ms Masaki Sasaki and technical consultant Dr. Hiroshi Kobayashi, who happen to the project manager, represented JICA at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Additional information:
Project background

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