Coal plant can't ease power woes in Mindanao

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY - A coal plant that is expected to ease the shortage of power in Mindanao has resumed operations, but the amount of electricity it is generating is barely enough to fill the wide power gap that continues to bring daily brownouts to many parts of the island.

The plant, owned by Steag State Power Inc. (SPI), resumed the running of one of its turbines, which has a generating capacity of 105 megawatts on Wednesday.

But as of Thursday, demand for power across Mindanao was 1,277 MW and supply was only 873 MW, or a deficiency of 354 MW, more than half of what the coal plant owned by SPI is able to produce.

In this city alone, demand is 140 MW but Cagayan de Oro Electric Power and Light Co. is getting only 35 MW, causing up to 12 hours, or half a day, of brownouts daily.

Carsten Evers, SPI power plant manager, said Unit 2 of the SPI coal facility went online around 8:55 p.m. on Wednesday, a day ahead of target.

"We are happy to announce that SPI has added 105 MW to the grid and we hope that this will provide some relief in the precarious power supply condition of Mindanao," Evers said in a statement.

Evers also said SPI was currently rushing work on the repair of Unit 1 to be able to put it back online on June 1 or earlier.

"We recognise the necessity and urgency of bringing the units back online and rest assured that we are doing our best to restore our full capacity the soonest possible time," Evers said.

He said SPI employees were working round the clock to complete the repair of Unit 1 to restore the power plant's full capacity.

SPI's coal plant went offline on Feb. 27 after its turbines suffered damage. The cause of the damage was not made known.

Evers said preventive maintenance of the plant was ongoing concurrently with repair and restoration works.

SPI's plant in Misamis Oriental province is the first coal-powered generating facility to operate in Mindanao.

It has two identical generators, each with a net capacity of 105 MW, or a combined net generating output of 210 MW.

Since its full commercial operation in November 2006, SPI has delivered more than 10 billion kilowatts per hour of electric power to the Mindanao grid, accounting for about a fifth of the island's total power supply. Bobby Lagsa, Inquirer Mindanao