THE Department of Energy (DOE) and Summa Kumagai Inc. (SKI) who propose to put up a geothermal facility at the outskirt of Mt. Bulusan in Sorsogon plan to start another round of information campaign after efforts to locate an underground energy concentration site were met with protests, said Josefino C. Adajar, Supervising Science Research Specialist at the DOE.
The DOE is tasked by State policy to look for energy resources that would generate power for the next 20 years, he stated, noting that the department has indicators to indicate how much energy is required for the period.
Adajar said Republic Act 9513, also known as Renewable Energy Act of 2008, mandates the exploration and development of renewable energy resources like geothermal, biomass, solar, hydro, ocean and wind to achieve energy self-reliance, and ease the country’s dependence on fossil fuels of which price fluctuates in global market.
Geothermal energy qualifies as renewable if generated by way of natural release, where water is replenished by rainfall and heat is constantly produced inside the earth, and where water used in geothermal process is re-injected into the ground to produce more steam, he said.
He also said the use of oil to generate power is expensive, while coal is highly pollutant, and nuclear energy is opposed by many.
The anti-geothermal group warned project proponents not to touch the 3, 673-hectare Bulusan Volcano Natural Park, which they claim is a protected area for fear that a geothermal facility in the area may bring devastation to environment. The group asked local leaders to block any attempt for exploration.
Backed by individuals who had spent service for the National Power Corp., the group holds that materials like arsenic, hydrogen sulphide, baron and mercury that would stir up during geothermal process are harmful to human health, a concern that was particularly stressed by Senen Aguilar, one of the technical figures of the group, in an earlier talk.
Jose Geñorga, another technical voice, said the geothermal facility would entail ecological collapse and suggested as alternative the harness of energy potential of San Bernardino Strait and Nasipit Falls in Bulusan.
Adajar, in response, said they have already spared the natural park and the probe to track down caldera, the concentration of energy deposits, would further withdraw when exploration resumes.
He said geothermal facility generates zero-waste backlog. Everything that the earth releases from below its crust is sorted out by a separator, steam is collected and, with the re-injection technology, the water is sent back underground.
The DOE energy specialist said that generating power from ocean sources like San Bernardino Strait is too expensive.
The DOE awarded the geothermal project to the SKI on Feb. 19, 2010 who would single-handedly bankroll the exploration, construction and operation, Adajar said.
A five-year contract to explore 25,959 hectares, covering large sections of the towns of Bulusan, Barcelona, Casiguran, Juban and Irosin, would be undertaken by the SKI Construction Group, Inc., he said.
“The contract for exploration is two years which can be extended for another two years,” Adajar said. “If we find out that they are making progress, it can be extended for another year.”
Within the period, the SKI should have already established that a sustainable geothermal energy mine is present beneath the area, noted Rogelio Del Rosario, Senior Science Research Specialist at DOE.
“After five years of exploration they should be able to tell that the area is viable for power development or relinquish it,” he said.
Several millions of dollars account for geothermal exploration alone, Del Rosario said. He said that drilling pipes into the ground can go down as deep as three kilometers below the earth surface, he said.
Generating one megawatt costs $5 million, Adajar said.
“If we are intending to put up 20 megawatts, it will cost $100 million,” he said. The DOE estimates the potential geothermal capacity in the area at about 40 megawatts.
Upon locating the caldera within the 25, 959-hectare exploration zone, the SKI would eventually take about 10-hectare only to put up a compact facility with only about five to seven wells flanking a power plant at the center, and spare the rest of the expanse, Del Rosario said.
He said that under the contract, the SKI would operate the facility for 25 years, renewable for another 25 years, but not more than 50.
The power generated would be transmitted to the national grid, which in turn would distribute it to different regions, Adajar said.
He especially cited Kidapawan City which, according to him, was probably a fifth-class town which started to scale its own cityhood when a geothermal facility began to harness the energy potential in the area.
Renewable energy has already outdated conventional energies like oil, coal and nuclear, Del Rosario said. He noted that it has to be tapped in response to global warming.
Del Rosario hopes that local communities would open their mind.
“Energy is vital to development,” he said. “This is a matter of national security. We don’t want the recurrence of the oil crisis in 1970s and the massive brownouts in 1992 and 1993.”
Original article is published at Business Mirror on January 20, 2013.