Admin, BOT to discuss solar energy project fund

The Silliman administration and Board of Trustees (BOT) will set a discussion on the financial arrangement of the solar power proposal of Orion Group International, Inc. to install solar panels that will generate 300 megawatts of electricity on Silliman campus.

In a forum last July 1, the Executive Vice President of Orion Group International, Inc. Rynor G. Jamandre announced the company’s plan to partner with Department of Energy (DoE) and the university on a project that would use solar energy in powering up a significant portion of the 62-hectare campus.

Silliman University (SU) President Ben S. Malayang III said that the university is interested in the project because it can save energy and the environment through nonconventional energy or capacity for solar energy sourcing, mixing it with the geothermal energy of Silliman.

“Most of our energy is geothermal. [Mixing] geothermal by itself is not petroleum, and geothermal is already an alternative energy. You mix it with solar, then we might have a mix of energy sources in Silliman that causes less pollution than petroleum,” said Malayang.

Jamandre added that if this project happens, SU will be able save from its estimated monthly power bill of Php4 million. The savings could be used to buy more books, computers, desks and chairs, and even the construction of new buildings.

Orion proposed to install a 1.2-megawatt solar energy project in Silliman for free worth $2 million. According to Jamandre, the solar power project will be a grid-tie system and would need no batteries for the solar panels. He said that it will cost between Php80,000 and Php100,000 per kilowatt of solar energy (without batteries), as against Php180,000 to Php250,000 per kilowatt (with batteries).

Orion is targeting SU to become the biggest solar-powered campus in Asia.

Dr. Nichol R. Elman, project director of Affliated Rewable Energy Center (AREC) of SU, said that SU will not spend in this project.

“There will be no cost on the end of the university. But, the SU and Orion will face the same risk if the solar panels will bug down due to calamities,” said Elman.

Elman assured that the faculty, parents, and students can benefit from the project through energy cost savings, books, and scholarships.

“For every 20 kilowatt we pay for, one scholarship will be sponsored by Orion. For every five kilowatt, one household is lighted. This project is our extension to our corporate social responsibility by saving millions of our energy consumption,” said Elman.

Malayang, however, said that the administration is still proposing to the BOT the “build, operate, transfer” scheme.

According to Malayang, the Orion will build the solar project and operate it first before transferring it to the university after sometime.

“They use their own money to build it, and then we will pay for the equivalent wattage that they have generated for us. After they have recovered their investment at some reasonable mark up, then they will turn over the property to us,” Malayang said.

After 25 years, the Orion turns over the project and the university is looking on the capacity of Silliman to maintain and operate it.

Malayang said that he will still look further into the details of the proposal and its funding.He added that they are ensuring there will be “no upfront cost” to the university.

Silliman AREC initiated the project. It is the one of the first AREC institutions in the country.

By Leslie J. Batallones

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