A past unproductive land in Barangay Paraiso, Batangas, became a sea of 200,000 solar panels, harvesting heat from the sun and generates enough electricity to power the whole of Western Batangas. The 63.3-megawatt Calatagan Solar Farm at the convergence of Calatagan, Lian, and Balayan towns is the largest solar facility here in the Philippines today. It is a 160-hectare farm that is meant for efficient and eco-friendly power generation of Batangas.
It was Solar Philippines – lead by a 22-year-old entrepreneur Leandro Leviste- who developed and financed this breakthrough in the country’s power generation. The solar farm cost up to $120 million or 5.7 billion pesos. It started generating power before the March 15 government deadline.
It was perceived that with over three decades of its operation, the solar farm would offset over 1 million tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to planting 5 million trees. Since the operation began, more and more people are being employed; giving a piece of livelihood to many. It would diminish the unemployment rate in the region and boost the economy of Batangas.
According to Leviste,” Whereas others see solar power as just a part of their portfolio, we believe it will one day supply the largest share of the energy mix. Costs continue to improve, and solar will soon become cheaper than coal. As the only local company organized to develop and build solar farms from end-to-end, we are in a unique position to realize that potential.”
Aside from being the biggest completed solar power project so far, it is also the first that a local company has developed, financed and constructed a renewable energy facility.
The majority of the cost was funded by Philippine Business Bank(PBB) lead by business magnate Alfredo Yao. Leviste acknowledged the other’s participation in the fulfillment of this project. He also said that he expected this solar farm to break even in eight years.
Before resorting to making a solar farm, solar power Philippines has already made some breakthrough in solar panel installation. They are the ones that built solar panels on top of shopping malls such as Central Mall Biñan, SM North Edsa and Robinsons Palawan with dreams of turning every vast rooftop in this country into a power plant.
However, they prefer to build solar farms because it is a good way to scale-up operations and generate power at a lower cost. Plus, it is environment-friendly!
Solar Power Supply in the Philippines is looking forward to building more solar farms, this time, in Visayas and Mindanao. They aim to reach the 500MW capacity by 2017. Currently, the Solar Power in the Philippines has already completed 80MW in total, including the Calatagan project. Leviste is confident that his company would be able to complete all the projects he has in mind.
“The exciting thing is that the Philippines will be among the first places where solar power will overtake fossil fuel, because existing rates are so competitively high, allowing the Philippines to become a global leader in solar power and positioning it for when the numbers start to make sense in the rest of the world. That can only happen if companies like us are focused on making solar power cost competitive for the long term, instead of just maximizing profits from subsidies in the short term,” he said.
Of course, having these positive results in view would also mean some challenges that one may face. An example of that is land acquisition. Leviste said that they found it difficult to acquire land for the building of solar farms because Filipinos highly value arable land. Though challenging, Leviste pushes through his vision to replace our transmission grid with solar power generation. He was then recognized by Forbes among the inspiring young leaders in various fields.