It was perhaps the magic of the moment on a Sunday morning when the management and staff of the Romblon Electric Cooperative, Inc. (ROMELCO) collectively dreamt of ushering in the wind of change with a new environment-friendly power source.

Now spinning on the hills of Barangays Agnay, Bagacay and Lonos in the island of Romblon are 900-kilowatt (kW) wind turbines to accommodate the increasing electricity demand of the island province.

After almost a year of construction, ROMELCO officially launched over the weekend its P242 million wind farm project, which was made possible through its partnership with Japanese manufacturer Komaihaltec, Inc. and supported by the Ministry of the Environment of Japan.

The National Electrification Administration (NEA) through Deputy Administrator for Technical Services Artis Nikki Tortola meanwhile lauded ROMELCO for going beyond what was expected of a small power utility.

“For so long a time, we were conditioned to think that private companies can best operate and maintain power plants. However, ROMELCO defied those perceptions and proof of this are the many generation projects the cooperative has ventured into,” Tortola said in his speech.

The success of the project only demonstrates that there was no challenge too big for a determined non-profit distribution utility to fuel tourism and other industries by powering communities without harming the environment, according to the NEA official.

“Anything is possible and the electric cooperatives, if given the chance, are the most potent arm in the quest of the national government for total electrification all over the Philippines by providing stable and clean energy at the most reasonable rate compared to the private sector,” Tortola said.

Defying the odds

Getting the project off the ground was not a breeze. In fact, it faced a wide range of challenges from land acquisition, importation of construction equipment, to securing permits and service contracts from the Department of Energy (DOE) and other government regulators.

“Realizing this project was not easy,” ROMELCO general manager Rene Fajilagutan told his fellow member-consumer-owners who gathered for the inauguration ceremony last February 10 at the site of the wind turbine in Barangay Agnay.

“Armed with determination, courage and passion to serve our people and for the good of the environment, we were able to overcome these challenges,” the forward-thinking engineer turned co-op official added.

Standing at 42 meters each, the three units of 300-kW wind turbines will have a combined capacity to generate 2,000,100 kilowatt hours of green energy, or equivalent to 25 percent of the total annual energy requirement of the island.

These facilities will be leased to the co-op per its agreement with Komaihaltec, Inc. “ROMELCO will take full ownership of the facilities after four years of demonstration period,” Fajilagutan said.

Celebrating a milestone

With the inauguration of the wind farm, the co-op has taken another significant step towards reaching its goal of generating 90 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. “Last year, in 2018, ROMELCO was already at 39 percent,” he said.

“ROMELCO and its partners will be exploring and developing more renewable energy resources to achieve our ambition,” Fajilagutan added. He had previously mentioned to the NEA that a biomass power plant was also in the pipeline.

In recent years, the co-op had likewise established a 30-kW solar diesel hybrid generation system in Cobrador Island, and 1,350-kW mini hydro power plant in Cantingas, San Fernando, Sibuyan Island.

Komaihaltec, Inc. president Susumu Tanaka, who was also in attendance during the inauguration, said the wind turbine power plant in Romblon was their first project in the country.

“It has been always our hope to help remote communities, such as islands and isolated towns, to have sustainable and locally available energy source with our wind turbines,” Tanaka said, optimistic that a similar endeavor will be replicated elsewhere in the Philippine archipelago.

“I hope and I believe that this system will spread out to other island communities in the Philippines and in the other part of the world in the not far future,” the Japanese company executive added.

Meanwhile, the energy produced by these wind turbines will not only power up households in Romblon, but will also charge batteries for use in electric vehicles that have recently been introduced by Honda Motor Company, Ltd. to the province.

In partnership with ROMELCO, the automobile manufacturer had chosen to pilot its new PCX electric scooters powered by Honda Mobile Power Pack detachable batteries in Romblon. It had released 100 units that have been leased to Romblon residents for P2,000 a month for four years.

“We hope with this experience, we can inspire our fellow Romblomanons and the rest of the electric cooperatives and other electric utilities to rapidly transition from the traditional source of power to renewable energy in the delivery of electric service to our constituents,” Fajilagutan concluded.

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