The developing world’s first and largest (at the time of its inauguration in 2004) on-grid solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant, the 1MWp polycrystalline silicon-based PV plant and connected with the distribution network of Cagayan Electric Power & Light Co., Inc. (CEPALCO) in Cagayan de Oro City, has completed its third year of commercial operations with greater than expected annual energy production. From the start of tis commercial operations on September 26, 2004, the PV plant has exported to CEPALCO a total of 4,169,100 kWh or an average of 1,389,700 annually, which is 10% higher than the expected annual energy generation of 1,261,400 kWh. At its current generating capacity, the PV plant supplies the equivalent requirement of no less than 900 CEPALCO residential customers.
CEPALCO’s 1MWp plant, with installed costs close to 5.3 Million US Dollars, uses 6,500 solar panels on 2 hectares of land and was partially funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) which was facilitated by the World Bank through the International Finance Corporation. The GEF fund is a loan that turns into grant after five years of successful operation of the PV plant by CEPALCO. The turnkey contract was awarded to Sumitomo Corporation of Japan. Sharp of Japan manufactured the PV modules while Sansha manufactured the inverters. The balance of system components were procured locally.
The PV plant is designed to be operated in conjunction with the 7MW run-of-the-river hydro plant owned by CEPALCO subsidiary company, Bubunawan Power Company. Being one of a kind, the PV plant has already been visited by over 10,000 students and visitors both local and as well as foreign renewable energy enthusiasts since it started operations.
Gaining from the experience, CEPALCO now plans to embark into an even larger solar park within its service territory. The envisioned solar park shall make use of a 30-hectare lot within the First Cagayan de Oro Business Park in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental, some 30 minutes east of Cagayan de Oro City.
Pre-feasibility study of the proposed PV plant indicates that it will be able to supply the CEPALCO distribution network with not less than 14,000,000 kWh of electricity annually, which is equivalent to not less than 30,000 barrels of fuel oil per year. The proposed PV plant, with a total installed capacity of at least 10-MWp, shall be constructed over a period of at least five years and shall use the best available solar technology in the market. The phased-in construction strategy will enable CEPALCO to capitalize on the increasing efficiency but decreasing costs of solar cells, which currently command not less than 50% of the PV plant’s installed costs. It will also cushion the impact of generation costs on CEPALCO’s customers.
If implemented according to plans, the first phase of the proposed 30-hectare solar park shall be commissioned by 2012 to augment the expected shortfall of firm capacity in the Mindanao Grid.