SAN CARLOS CITY – San Carlos BioPower Inc. held the groundbreaking of its P3.5 billion 18 megawatt multi-feedstock biomass power plant in Barangay Palampas here yesterday, that is targeted to begin commercial operations on December 2014, its president, Xavier Zabaleta, said.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, Zabaleta announced that SCBI has secured all the permits and financing to begin the construction of the biomass power plant.
Their investors include local and foreign groups, some of whom are represented by European-based Thomas Lloyd and Wuxi Huaguang of China, key contractor for this project, he said.
Zabaleta said a Notice to Proceed has been issued to Wuxi for the commencement of the work.
“We are confident this project will greatly contribute to the local economy by creating a market for biomass as the raw material for power generation," he said.
He said that, among the materials to be used to fire the plant, are sugarcane leaves, locally termed as kanchaha.
“These are mostly burned in the fields by farmers. We intend to utilize such agricultural residues that would provide supplemental income to the farmers, prevent the current practice of open field burning that is, in fact, prohibited by the Clean Air Act, and generate power from indigenous resources in an environmentally-sound and sustainable manner,” Zabaleta said.
They will be working with farmers throughout the first district to source this and other types of biomass, he said.
“We will also establish energy crop plantations on marginal lands under contract-growing schemes with farmers,” he said.
This is not just our company's project but one of the city, which will contribute greatly to the local economy by creating jobs, raising employment opportunities, and creating service businesses, Zabaleta added.
He told the DAILY STAR they will hire 500 workers in the construction phase of the plant, and more than 300 when it begins operations.
There will be 180 workers for on-site plant operations and 140 for off-site work covering the supply chain and logistics.
The biomass power plant will occupy a 20-hectare site inside the San Carlos Economic Zone. It will be fired by sugarcane and rice residue, trimmings, bamboo, grasses, coconut husks, fronds, shells and corn stovers.
It will also provide additional income to more than a thousand farmers providing agricultural residues, he added.
On top of the biomass plant, he said they also expect to produce 10 megawatts of solar power by early next year and 25 to 30 megawatts of wind power in the future.
A Japanese plant that produces head pieces and a ship building facility may also be set up at the San Carlos Economic Zone, he said.
In San Carlos City, “green is gold,” its mayor, Gerardo Valmayor Jr., said.
“We are open to all other investors, especially if they are in line with our agenda for green industries,” the mayor said.
Energy Undersecretary Ramon Allan Oca, who was at the groundbreaking rites, said “We take this as another step towards minimizing our demand for fossil fuels and to having cheaper and more stable power sourced from renewable energy.”
This will help address the increasing demand for energy in the Visayas, he added.
He also commended SCBI for shooting two birds with one stone – generating power and addressing agricultural waste disposal.
“Agricultural waste as raw material is cheap, indigenous and renewable. Using it as feedstock power generation is environmentally-friendly and reduces air pollution,” Oca added.
Mike Airey, representing the Thomas Lloyd Group that is investing in the plant, said the 18MW plant will be a benchmark for the provision of sustainable energy in Negros.
“We see this as the first of several facilities here, elsewhere on the island, and throughout the Philippines,” he said.
Director Mario Marasigan of the Renewable Energy Management Bureau was also present at the rites.*CPG