With assistance from Jesuitenmission and Jesuit Mission Australia, ESSC developed this year a micro-hydro power (MHP) generator to provide electricity for the Apu Palamguwan Cultural Education Center (APC) school and other facilities of the Pulangiyen, a mountain indigenous community in Bukidnon Province in Mindanao, Philippines.
For the last eight years, APC operated on solar panels. The Center is located in Sitio Bendum, around 700 meters along the Pantadon Range and is a high-density cloud area, hence the energy generated is limited. In recent years, there was an increase in the number of students from within Bendum and from other villages along the mountain range who stay in the school dormitory. Expanding the renewable energy resource will enable the area to have better and longer quality lighting at night, affording the school children with an opportunity to have more hours of quality study.
Other outcomes of the MHP provision are the shift in energy use pattern from kerosene to electricity and environmental protection through linking forest and watershed management to basic energy services.
A pre-feasibility study for establishing this type of renewable energy was done in 2006, which resulted in the identification of the stream where the facility will draw energy. A feasibility study to develop the detailed design and costing and supervision of construction was undertaken by the Yamog Renewable Energy Development Group, a Davao-based organization with extensive experience in Mindanao and the Visayas.
The MHP generator in Sitio Bendum has a volume flow of 60 liters per second, a head of 32 meters, a potential power generation of 10 kilo volt amperes, with a three-phase design turbine and generator design Yamog outsourced from a company in Indonesia. The three-phase turbine/generator allows greater control over the power distribution areas, should there be problems.
Part of the activities involved the construction and provision of the following:
- Dam/weir/wingwall/intake/sluice gate
- Gravel trap/headrace canal
- Forebay tank/trash rack/breather pipe/spillway
- Penstock measuring 280 meters
- Powerhouse/electromechanical foundation
- Electromechanical equipment/controller
- Transmission/distribution materials
- Internal wiring, light fixtures and outlets
Community meetings were facilitated with the Tribal Council to discuss the system for using and maintaining the renewable energy facility.
There was a need to accompany the process intensely and guardedly with the community and with elements of government due to the remoteness of Bendum and ESSC was required to ferry resources to the site amid the shaky peace in the area.
More comprehensive river discharge measurements and surveys were conducted in late September 2009 to properly gauge the volume and head of water for power generation and locate the actual placement of the various components of the MHP on the ground.
These critical measurements would determine the maximum power that can be generated in the system, as well as the cost requirements for the components of the MHP. Yamog then developed a detailed micro-hydro system design fitting the capacity of the Bendum water source and the power needs of the community.
Preparations for the construction of the MHP began in October where construction materials were ordered and hauled to Bendum from the city center of Malaybalay, which was three hours away.
A team of skilled workers led by a civil engineer from Yamog began initial land preparation and form works and proceeded to concreting the various structures comprising the MHP: the weir, the headrace canal, and the forebay tank.
The powerhouse where the turbine and generator are to be contained was constructed immediately after the civil works in the upper portion of the river were completed. As expected, certain adjustments had to be made on-site compared to the original plans developed by Yamog.
The penstock (the main pipe from the forebay tank which supplies the water to the turbine) connecting the forebay tank to the turbine in the powerhouse was then installed.
The transmission and distribution of the electricity from the powerhouse was the next phase of the project and it was finally decided, due to the abundance of trees along the shortest path to the distribution area, that the lines would be buried underground in water-resistant pipes.
Although this option was a fraction more expensive than an overhead system of electric poles, the long-term benefits in terms of maintenance and aesthetics outweighed the costs significantly.
Three staff and community members were trained in the operation, troubleshooting and maintenance of the MHP, from the dam to the powerhouse and on to the distribution. A system with a set of policies and guidelines was developed for load scheduling and usage restrictions so as to avoid problems in the future due to the fixed supply, potential abuse, and expected increase in usage.
Regular electricity usage dues from the community will contribute to the maintenance of the facility. These guidelines need to be drawn up in order to ensure a more sustainable source of energy for the community.
The structures in the APC grounds are now connected to the MHP power, primarily providing lighting needs for studying, weaving, lesson planning, and meetings during the evenings.
At this stage, it is made clear with the local government and local electricity cooperative that the Bendum community should still be included in future electrification plans for the area. Electricity provision through the MHP is primarily for use of particular needs of the school, the chapel, the livelihood center, and the local chieftain’s house for community meetings. This electricity provision is not meant to substitute the future electrification plans of local government, for which no timeline is still available.
With this new service now available in Bendum, an improvement in the way of life of the people is expected, particularly during the night when they have always struggled with poor and expensive lighting from kerosene lamps. The MHP also gives the community a greater motivation to protect the upper watershed of the water source that feeds into both the community potable water supply and the MHP.