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Philippines Looks to Geothermal Power to Address Energy Deficit

  • Jason Strother / Malte Kollenberg

The Philippines is one of the world’s leading producers of geothermal energy. Located atop the Pacific Ocean’s so-called Ring of Fire, the country has used volcanic heat to produce electricity for decades. Now there is a new project underway to use this renewable resource to power an entire island.

Montelago village lies on the edge of Mindoro’s Lake Naujan. It is connected to the island’s power grid, but just barely.

Community leader, Felix Gida says stable electricity is a problem here.

“This is a remote village. We have power lines coming here, but if there is a storm, the power goes out. Blackouts are common here,” he said.

For Montelago’s 1,900 residents, the solution to their energy needs could literally be right below them.

In the surrounding volcano-formed hills, engineers are in the early stages of harnessing Mindoro’s underground heat.

Fidel Correa, of the firm Emerging Power, said a test well will show how much energy can be produced here.

“We were shooting for 40-megawatts to supply the whole of Mindoro island with electricity from geothermal power,” said Correa.

Emerging Power thinks geothermal energy could cut the cost of electricity by half for Mindoro’s residents.

In Manila and many other parts of the Philippines, an increasing number of brownouts and blackouts are expected during the upcoming hottest months -- symptoms of an energy crunch that continues amid a fast-growing economy.

Analysts like Benjamin Diokno at the University of the Philippines’ School of Economics say that is because new energy infrastructure has been neglected.

“We need to build 600-megawatts every year for the next 15 years to meet our energy requirements,” said Diokno.

Diokno said more geothermal investment can provide the Philippines and other countries above active volcanic zones with a cleaner and longer lasting energy source.

Correa said that at least for Mindoro, they still have a ways to go.

“We would want to know what the temperatures would be at 1000, 1200 meters level. That would give us an idea of how much power we could get,” he said.

And at the well Correa is talking about, that is several hundred more meters below.

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