Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wind, wave power not stable enough for Cebu's needs

Wind, wave power not stable enough for Cebu’s needs
By Aileen Garcia-Yap, Candeze Mongaya
Cebu Daily News
October 10, 2010

Talks about tapping alternative sources of energy like wind, sunlight and ocean waves emerged after four days of rotation brownouts again hit Metro Cebu last week.

Yesterday Metro Cebu got a respite with no power interruptions reported.

This was due to the availability of 105 megawatts from Cebu Energy Development Corp .’s two power plants said Ethel Natera of the Visayan Electric Company (Veco).

Cebu’s power supply, however, remains unsteady due to lack of reserves, maintenance shutdowns of plants and a shortfall in supply.

Sen. Miguel Zubiri urged Cebu the other day to explore alternative energy sources like wind and ocean waves.

To this, CEDC president Jesus N. Alcordo told Cebu Daily News the company, which operates coal-fired power plants, is looking into alternatives, particularly hydropower, which taps rivers.

“I understand there are areas in the Visayas that may be suitable for wind power. The problem is that with the present technology, wind power is not suitable for base load requirement. Tide is possible but we don't have studies on this yet. Our interest in renewable energy would be more on hydros,” Alcordo said.

Alcordo said a wind-diesel hybrid power plant may be viable for power requirements of Cebu rural areas in Cebu. He said he wasn’t at liberty to give other details of their next investments.

But the commercial use of wind and ocean weaves for electric power in the Philippines remains a big question.

“This is not reachable for Cebu yet,” said Jose Antonio Aboitiz, president of Ocean Care Advocates and the Philippine Business for Social Progresss in the Visayas.

“”We have to prove that our wind and tide power would be enough to sustain the energy requeirements.”

He said the problem with this type of renewable energy is that it’s difficult to store. So when it runs out of power, one would still need the support of coal-fired power plants.

“And that will be more expensive,” he said, unless consumers don’t mind paying higher bills.

“But it’s definitely something that should be looked into.

Regional director Engr. Antonio Labios of the Department of Energy said there are potential areas for wind energy in Cebu, especially in Carmen, Alcoy and Boljoon but further study is needed for at least one year to establish the wind patterns, strength and duration throughout the year.

“A few years ago a German company named Cammon Wind Energy was interested in developing a wind farm in Boljoon and Oslob area but I was not able to follow it's status yet,” Labios said.

Local environmentalists support proposals to tap wind and tide power in Cebu.

Gloria Estenzo Ramos, of the Philippine Earth Justice Center Inc (PEJC), said the challenge of Senator Zubiri for private corporations to develop renewable sources of energy had many advantages.

“Renewable energy sources will give us clean air and would reduce emission of green house gases” Ramos said.

According to her, a wind power mapping done on the Philippines by the USAID last year showed tremendous power potential from wind in Cebu.

Ramos said the study was sent to local and provincial government but didn’t move from there.

Vince Cinchez, Fishefolk Development Center Inc. (FIDEC) executive director for Central Visayas, said they also support the proposal.

With brownouts still a possibility during the Oct. 25 barangay elections, local lawmakers said everyone must be prepared.

Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez said companies should use their generators sets on election day to reduce power load.

He also said flashlights should be brought to pollings precincts in preparation for possible power interruptions.

“Although the elections are manual, there is still a need to prepare flashlights,” he said.

Cebu's 4th district Rep. Benhur Salimbangon said power interruptions are inevitable.

“We should be ready for brownouts. If and when power plants bog down, there would be power interruptions. We have to cross our fingers,” he said.

Popwer utility firms in Cebu have made no assurance of a steady power supply on election day.

Although power supply is enough, they fear that some power plants might bog down on election day.

Senior Supt. Erson Digal, Cebu Provincial Police Office director, also directed all policemen to bring flashlights on election day.

“They are securing polling places. In case of a brownout, they should have flashlights with them to light up the area,” Digal said./WITH ADOR VINCENT S. MAYOL