Tidal energy is set to come to the Philippines after the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) chose local company H&WB Asia Pacific and Sabella of France to build a project in the country’s San Bernardino Strait.
The project, which will see turbines deployed in three concession areas, will be the first tidal energy facility in Southeast Asia. Sabella is an expert in marine technology and manufacturer of tidal turbines which installed France’s first tidal turbine in 2008, while H&WB is a local energy project developer.
Sabella was chosen because of its experience in providing power to small island energy networks. In 2015, it installed a 1-MW device that sits on the seabed off the island of Ushant, just off the coast of Brittany. The firm says that the gravity-based design and its modular architecture reduce the cost and difficulty of maintenance by necessitating only the turbine to be extracted when it needs to be serviced.
PNOC said that there was considerable potential to harness clean energy from around the Philippines’ extensive coastline – it comprises more than 7,000 islands – and that it will help the country to become more self-sufficient in energy, as well as diversifying the energy mix.
The islands of Capul and San Antonio in the strait are currently powered by old and unreliable diesel generators and have limited access to electricity. It is hoped that the tidal project can provide cleaner, more consistent and cost-competitive power to the islands.
Tidal power is seen as having great potential, particularly for isolated islands, because it is consistent and can be predicted years in advance, reducing the volatility issues that affect technologies such as wind and solar. “Tidal energy resource is considered more predictable and consistent than wave energy resource, and even wind for that matter,” H&WB said.
The sector has been slow to develop because of the difficulties of working in the marine environment and with powerful tidal forces. However, a number of projects are now going ahead, mainly in the UK and Canada, but also in countries such as China, South Korea and Malaysia.
The first demonstration project will consist of three to five devices and work will start in the first half of this year.