The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has put in place “stringent” rules for the issuance of environmental compliance certificates (ECC) under the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System (PEISS) for floating photovoltaic (FPV) plants in Laguna de Bay.
DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning, and International Affairs Jonas R. Leones confirmed that the much-awaited guidelines for floating solar projects in Laguna de Bay were finally signed by DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga.
“We already have guidelines for the floating solar. It is already signed and it is up for publication,” Leones said.
Leones, who also acts as spokesman of the DENR chief said, said the guidelines would make sure that the implications of floating solar projects would be thoroughly studied, and was a result of the collaborative effort of the DENR and the Department of Energy (DOE), which approves energy generation projects.
“There must be studies and baseline data,” he said.
The department administrative order (DAO) was handed down six months after Yulo-Loyzaga issued an order in January this year halting the acceptance and processing of ECC applications for floating solar and offshore wind energy projects, and to put in place a robust regulatory framework to address potential social, economic, and environmental impacts of such projects in Laguna de Bay.
A separate DAO putting in place the guideline for offshore wind energy projects is still being reviewed by the Department of Energy (DOE), Leones said.
One of the major considerations in coming up with the guidelines for floating solar projects is to ensure the protection and conservation of the lake’s biodiversity, and the lake as an ecosystem, Leones added.
He said the implications of putting solar panels on the surface of the lake for fisheries, navigation, and other uses, including water for irrigation and drinking, would be thoroughly researched.
“The lake has many uses—we have fish pens, and Maynilad and Manila Water also draw water from the lake,” Leones noted.
DENR Undersecretary for Finance, Information System and Climate Change Analiza R. Teh, said while the government promotes the shift to renewable energy (RE) harnessing natural resources such as wind, hydro, ocean current, and solar, it is imperative that economic, social, and environmental safety measures are also put in place.
“The guidelines we have developed are very thorough. We have put in place rules, to be followed in developing floating solar projects,” she explained.
The guidelines, which are contained in DENR Administrative Order No. 2023-08 signed on July 17 aim to ensure that “FPV development adheres to the highest standards.”
The guidelines promote the efficient use of available water resources in Laguna de Bay while maximizing clean energy generation.
With the guidelines in place, the cumulative assessment impact of all development projects within the lake would be assessed.
It also aims to foster collaboration among stakeholders to ensure the successful implementation of FPVs and promotes comprehensive water use planning with robust national assessment on the carrying capacity of the lake.
More importantly, the guidelines support continuous research and innovation to improve the environmental performance and resilience of FPV plants in the face of climate change and other challenges.
The order also covers FPV projects with ECCs issued prior to the signing of the guidelines, FPV projects within the initial pre-determined area of not more than 2,000 hectares within Laguna de Bay allocated for Renewable Energy Utilization as indicated in Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) Memorandum Circular No. 2022-02.
All other projects shall be subject to appropriate guidelines to be issued, which shall consider emerging technologies that may evolve and other considerations based on experience from the implementation of FPVs with ECCs prior to floating solar guidelines and LLDA Memorandum Circular No. 2022-02.
Specifically crafted for the Laguna de Bay, the guidelines are the first for RE projects that would harness the power of the sun to generate electricity.
Laguna de Bay, which has a catchment area of 90,000 hectares, presents a unique opportunity for the implementation of FPV due to its geographical location and the increasing demand for power and electricity in the region.
Unlike most solar farms that were built on land, however, FPV plants this time would be constructed atop a vast body of water.
Laguna de Bay, the country’s largest freshwater lake, is one of the most economically important and productive lakes in the country. It has multiple uses and ecosystem services.
Aside from being one of the largest aquaculture hubs in the country where bangus and tilapia are cultured, Laguna de Bay is also a fishing ground for small fisherfolk. It is also used for transportation using motorized bancas and its water is used for irrigation. The private water concessionaires of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS)-Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Company also extract raw water from the lake to augment the supply coming from Angat Dam for their respective water customers.