Solar power in Asia

The Philippines will get a solar power plant with the largest ever capacity in southeast Asia by 2002

A Japanese trading firm Sumitomo Corp is planning to build the largest solar power generating plant in southeast Asia. The Osaka-based firm has received a 4.5 million order to design and build the plant in the Philippines from Cagayan Electric Power and Light Co (CEPALCO), a private utility company based in southern Philippines. Sumitomo hopes to make the Philippines project the first step in creating a solar energy market in Asia. Globally, solar energy demand has grown at about 25 per cent annually over the past 15 years.

The 1megawatt (MW) power generation system with about 6000 solar battery panels on a 20,000 square metre site is scheduled to be ready by late 2002. CEPALCO, which is providing the site, is also partly financing the project by a US $4 million loan from the World Bank. The generated power will be marketed both to industrial plants and households. Assuming an average power consumption of 2 kilowatts per household, about 500,000 households will get electricity supply as a result of this project. The Philippines government has set a tentative target of producing about 520 MW of electricity from indigenous energy sources by 2011, which would account for about four per cent of current installed capacity.

This project is part of a trend where organisations, with financial support from international lending agencies and industrialised countries, order installations of solar power equipment in developing countries. The deal between CEPALCO and Sumitomo is expected to encourage the trading firm to initiate a similar project in Mongolia. Another Japanese company, Mitsubishi Corp, is expecting Japanese foreign aid for a similar solar power project in Thailand.