Citicore agro-solar project: a model of collaboration

posted June 05, 2021 at 06:45 pm
by  Alena Mae S. Flores
Agricultural development and industrial progress can be achieved hand-in-hand, according to agro-solar energy supply and solutions provider Citicore Power Inc.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar (second from left) joins the unveiling of Citicore agro-solar projects in Tarlac City.
There is now a global innovative approach that relies on the dual use of a solar power facility with agriculture—a concept of combining solar energy production with farming that could change the way food is produced in the future.

The Citicore agrosolar project is a proof of concept that agriculture, solar power generation and social development can go hand-in-hand towards food, energy and economic security.  It is  an  innovative,  sustainable  and  efficient  project  that  combines  power generation  and  crop  production. 

It adopts sustainable farming  processes,  planting  and  growing  crops beneath the arrays of elevated solar panels.

It also aims to support sustainable crop production by empowering farmers and host communities, as well as supporting rural development through planting and producing agricultural crops in the solar power plant sites. It encourages planting of basic and high-value crops which are easy to grow and produce and have a higher net return per hectare of land.

In a plant tour and harvest festival sponsored by Citicore at its Tarlac 2 solar farm on May 20, the Development Bank  of  the  Philippines,  the  Department  of  Agriculture  and  the  local  government  of  Tarlac  City expressed  strong  support  for  the  proliferation  of  agro-solar models across the country, similar to Citicore’s agro-solar project.

Participants experienced first-hand a solar plant in operation, while having an opportunity to harvest turmeric, grown directly beneath the solar panels.

“Citicore’s goal for pioneering this initiative is to ensure that farmers are not displaced by the race for renewable energy, but rather be nurtured and supported, as they remain integral to the country’s economic growth and development. We want to strike a balance between industrialization, environmental protection and agricultural advancement,” said Oliver Tan, president of Citicore.

With  downstream  linkage  to  crop  production,  Citicore’s  agro-solar  model  becomes  very  attractive  to institutions heavily engaged in financing agro-industrial activities and promoting countryside development.

Most of the solar power plants in the country are built on what were previously farm lands.

With this, Citicore examined the possibility of planting crops beneath the highest points of the solar panel structures that can also help the small farm growers in host communities to continue with their livelihood even after the land conversion. Citicore dedicated 500 square meters in each of the five solar plants in Luzon for the pilot run of the project.

Soil in all solar farms were analyzed and proven suitable for growing crops and turmeric was selected a high-value crop with minimal maintenance requirements when planted. 

The solar photovoltaic panel structures in the Philippines are specifically designed and built to adapt to  the  local  weather  and  climate,  resulting  in  closer-spaced  structures  that  are  lower  in  height  than comparable  facilities  in  other  countries. 

The  panel  structures  have  around  800 mm  to  1  meter  vertical clearance below the panels at the highest point, which gave room for planting of the initial turmeric crops.

After almost 12 months, the farm yielded 40,000 kilos of turmeric with an estimated commercial value of P1 million, on top of generating a total of 71 MW of clean solar energy across five power projects.

Other high-value crops and vegetable varieties will soon be planted to maximize yields during the entire planting season and address climate change issues.

“Our main driving force in DBP is to give hope to our food providers.  That’s why we partnered very closely with DA to provide financial support to our farmers and help them become drivers of progress in rural areas,” DBP president Emmanuel Herbosa said, echoing DA’s vision in helping farmers improve their livelihood.

DBP is the country’s largest development bank and primarily mandated to cater to the needs of agricultural and  industrial  enterprises.  It  also  offers  several  programs,  like  the agroforestry  plantation  program  that provides credit assistance for the development, expansion, harvesting, processing, maintenance and protection of industrial forest-based plantations in qualified areas.

“Our focus areas for financing are aligned with the objectives of Citicore’s agro-solar project, especially in terms of support for small and medium enterprises, which our farmers can represent, and nurturingthe environment, which Citicore very well embodies,” Herbosa said.

The  bank  focuses  on  four  major  areas  of  financing —infrastructure  and  logistics,  social  services,  small and medium  enterprises,  and  the  environment.  On  the  other  hand,  Citicore  is  committed  to  harness  clean  and renewable energy sources to help the country achieve net-zero carbon emission in the future.

Citicore is a pure renewable energy company  committed  to  helping  the  country  achieve  a  healthy  energy  mix  from  solar,  hydro  and  biomass platforms.

Topics: Citicore agro-solar project , Citicore Power , agro-solar , plants , DBP , Agricuture , Oliver Tan , William Dar
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