The Renewable Energy Act of 2008 (“RE Act of 2008”) creates the impetus in pursuing renewable energy projects.  Imperatively, development financing breaks barriers, to wit:

“Section 29. Financial Assistance Program. – Government financial institutions such as the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), Phil-Exim Bank and other government financial institutions shall, in accordance with and to the extent allowed by the enabling provisions of their respective charters or applicable laws, provide preferential financial packages for the development, utilization and commercialization of RE projects as duly recommended and endorsed by the DOE.”

The San Bernardino Ocean Power Project (“Project”) is an innovative and transformative initiative carried out by San Bernardino Ocean Power Corp. (“SBOPC”), with France’s Sabella Société par Actions Simplifiée (“Sabella SAS”), to develop the Philippines’ and the ASEAN region’s first commercial ocean power plant deploying tidal in-stream turbines.

Forthwith, the Project’s keys to achieve fruition are anchored on strong financing schemes, mainly, PhilEXIM’s guarantee program, structured trade finance, and project finance, to push state-of-the-art technologies that harness energy from indigenous, non-fossil resources. Sabella’s resilient marine turbines for Tidal In-stream Energy Conversion (“TISEC”), an Ocean power technology, is uniquely viable in Philippines waters, adaptably, in San Bernardino strait.

The tidal power plant will produce the marine current resource in San Bernardino Strait, a channel separating the islands of Luzon and Samar, in order provide a reliable supply of clean power to the island of Capul, in the province of Northern Samar. The turbines will be deployed in concession areas granted by the Philippines Department of Energy (“DOE”) on October 30, 2013 under three Service Contracts to San Bernardino Ocean Power Corp. at the time when its corporate name was still H&WB Corporation (“H&WB”).

The Project aims to revolutionize the energy mix of Capul, an off-grid area, by replacing the obsolete, costly and polluting diesel generators with a green and cost-competitive alternative. The first phase of the Project consists in a 1.5 megawatt (MW) power plant featuring Sabella’s field-proven tidal turbine coupled with onshore batteries for storage. The main characteristics of the San Bernardino ocean power project are the following:

  • Three Sabella D20 turbines with a 500 kilowatt (kW) rated power output;
    • 2,820 megawatt-hour (MWh) net electrical output per year;
    • 1 MWh storage system aiming to:
  • smooth the injection of the power production of the tidal turbines depending on the grid demand;
  • securing the supply to the electrical grid so as to avoid blackouts;
  • Commissioning in 2020 for a 25-year operational lifetime.

It should be noted that the type of turbines to be installed is now D20-500 device, instead of the originally planned D15-1000. In fact, based on the statistics of current speeds in San Bernardino obtained with the numerical hydrodynamic model, the energy density is slightly lower than what was anticipated. Hence, a higher rotor diameter is needed for an identical output power. Similarly, the electrical chain will be adapted to the site and a 500 kW rated power output turbine is preferable to a 1 MW turbine, in order to fit Capul’s electrical needs and optimize the costs.

This project will not only reduce the environmental footprint of the islanders. It will also guarantee a 24-hour power supply against the still limited supply in the island of Capul, despite an availability increase from 8 hours to 16 hours a day in the first quarter 2017. The Project will also secure an electricity source for critical services such as medical facilities and schools, and enhance electricity access for approximately 5,500 people. Eventually, considering the 500 MW potential of the San Bernardino Strait, the ocean power plant, scaled-up, would be able to provide power to the 25,000 inhabitants of Capul and San Antonio, as well as the major towns of the provinces of Sorsogon and Northern Samar, which await economic development, provided electricity becomes reliable.