22 MW Philippines solar park spurring local PV market

Construction work on the largest solar park building site in San Carlos City on the island of Negros Occidental in the Philippines is progressing well, as pv magazine learned during an exclusive tour of the site.

The first 13 MW phase of the San Carlos Solar Energy 22 MW solar park is to be completed by early April. SACASOL is a joint venture of the Thomas Lloyd Group and the Philippine project developer Bronzeoak, with Germany’s Conergy as the prime contractor. Early indications suggest that the project will have a ripple effect on the development of the Philippine solar market.

Tens of thousands of modules, mounted on module tables with concrete foundations, are already lining the street and the sugar cane fields of San Carlos City’s economic zone. It is here that, on an area of 350,000 square meters, construction on the biggest solar park in the Philippines (22 MW) to date, began in October last year.

Up to 1,200 mainly local workers are currently employed on the site, busy constructing more bipedal aluminum module tables from Mounting Systems, assembling modules from Conergy, digging trenches for cables and installing concrete formwork for the central inverter distribution stations from SMA, and assembling yet more modules.

The first phase of 13 MW is 70% completed and should be finished by early April, according to Mike G. Airey, Director of Project Finance Asia Pacific at Thomas Lloyd. Construction work is now progressing well after heavy rains in January left the site partly underwater. On the other side of the street a former sugar cane field has been cleared and leveled and concrete foundations for the framework have already been partially laid. A security camera on a tower specifically erected for the purpose documented the progress of the second 9 MW phase of construction. According to Airey, this second phase should be completed as soon as May. The Philippine President, Benigno Aquino III, has already been invited to the official opening ceremony.

San Carlos Solar Energy (SACASOL), a joint venture of Thomas Lloyd Group and the Philippine project developer Bronzeoak, is the building contractor for the solar park. The total cost of the project amounts to approximately $45 million, according to information from Bronzeoak. Because construction is taking place within San Carlos City’s economic zone, component imports are exempted from customs duties and taxes, and a seven-year tax exemption is applicable on the solar park’s future profits.

Conergy calculates the 22 MW park’s annual income on 35,000 MWh. A 20-year feed in tariff of 9.68 pesos / KWh ($ 0.22 cents / KWh) beckons should the final approval of the supervisory authorities be granted over the coming weeks. The 69 kV cable of the National Grid runs directly beside the solar park.

This makes the SACASOL project the first PV project in the Philippines to be operational under the terms of the 2008 Renewable Energy Act’s feed-in tariff. "We expect a ripple effect on the entire market development," says Mike Airey of Thomas Lloyd.

However, the 50 MW cap for PV and a complicated approval process are barriers to further market players and projects. Airey also forecasts that working together with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank will result in a ripple effect on further market development of renewable energy in the Philippines.

At the end of February, Thomas Lloyd and the IFC signed a mandate document for the provision of top financing to the amount of $330 million. The funds will be used for a further solar park on the island of Negros Occidental and for the construction of biomass power plants.