By Roi Lomotan
VALENCIA, Negros Oriental (PIA) – Renewable energy firm Energy Development Corporation (EDC) seeks to expand its geothermal output in Negros Oriental.
The company seeks to expand its output from 222.5Mega Watss (MW) to 282.5MW in which additional 20MW will be allocated for its Nasuji Power Plant and the remaining 40MW will be reserved for its future developments.
The company is applying for an Environment Compliance Certificate (ECCC) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in line with its proposed expansion.
As a requirement in securing an ECC, a public was held to solicit opinions from different sectors on the proposed EDC expansion.
EDC representatives were present in a public hearing held recently at Yeva Gymnasium in Valencia town along with hundreds of representatives coming from the religious sector, business, grassroots, and environmental groups.
Some members of the environmental groups who participated the forum expressed dissent to the expansion, pointing out that this would affect the biodiversity in the area.
They also complained that the time allotted in the open forum was enough to allow everybody to express their concern in the issue.
However, Engr. Vicente Omandam, EDC project management senior manager of its Negros Island Geothermal Business Unit (NIGBU), clarified that the expansion will cover 30 hectares inside EDC’s 5,000 hectares development area.
Aside from this, he also noted that the company is necessary steps and considering all possible measures including engineering designs to minimize the number of trees that will be affected by the expansion.
However, he shared that in the initial design, around 800 trees were estimated to be cut but because of some alterations and revisions the number has been trimmed down to less than a hundred.
“We have to assert our best efforts. It will be a last resort to cut down trees if it can’t be avoided,” he said.
He also stated the company’s commitment in planting 100 trees to replace those that were cut down.
He also clarified that no new power plants will be built in the expansion but will install equipment that will harness the steam beneath the earth.
As part of the requirements in securing an ECC, EDC tapped consultancy firm GHD to make an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of its existing geothermal facility in this town.
Dr. Felixberto Roquia was among the experts who conducted the EIA presented some notable findings of the EIA during the public hearing.
These include EDC’s ability to utilize time, tested technologies, management systems and process in all its geothermal projects with the least impact to the environment such as directional drilling, multi-well pad system, its zero discharged system and other mitigation measures that protect the earth, water and air in its sites.
He also underscored that part of their recommendations to EDC is to make all stakeholders informed of any activity within their development area and planting of trees and other vegetation should be encouraged.
Meanwhile, Robert Dy, a representative of the Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NOCCI), considers the expansion as a welcome development since it can create employment for Valencianons and produce additional income in the municipality.
He acknowledges that there is a tradeoff when development projects like this happens, but noted that geothermal energy is cheaper than solar energy. (rmn/ral/PIA7-Negros Oriental/This article was first published at PIA Website on Mar. 14, 2016)