Ilocos Norte’s windmills: Tourism and energy giants

BANGUI, Ilocos Norte—Some 11 hours by road from Metro Manila, through the meandering MacArthur Highway, stand the majestic Bangui Windmills which officials say make sightseeing in the country more fun.

The Windmills, also known as the Bangui Wind Farm, is a Northwind Bangui Bay Project owned by Northwind Power Development Corp. in this coastal town, founded in 1786 and three towns away due north from the provincial capital of Laoag City.

Some travelers to the far northwest have described the Windmills as similar to white three-horned giant robots guarding the shoreline facing the Luzon Bay, 552 kms north of Manila.

WIND FARM. The Northwind Bangui Bay Project, which uses 20 units of high Vestas wind turbines on a 9-km stretch of the shoreline of Bangui facing the West Philippine Sea, its location optimal in removing windbreaks and has a terrain roughness of 0. The Philippines, being near the Asia-Pacific monsoon belt, is ideal for installing wind turbines. John Chua
But for the provincial government, the Windmills are monuments to the determination of local officials and residents of the province to make their province the seat of a major tourist come-on as well as renewable energy.

According to official sources, the Windmills have attracted hundreds of thousands of tourists and made the province one of the top 10 tourist destinations in this Southeast Asian archipelago of 7,107 islands.

Statistics from the Department of Tourism showed tourist arrivals in the province in recent years have numbered 191,300, and the arrivals have been increasing since.

In scorching summer, particularly during the Holy Week, thousands of tourists walk the strip of the Bangui Bay shoreline under the 70-meter tall—about 23 storys—turbines, each with blades measuring 41 meters (just nine meters shy of an Olympic sized pool), a rotor diameter of 82 meters and a wind swept area of 5,281 square meters.

The Windmills, arranged in a single row, forming an arc along the Bangui shoreline, lapped by the deep blue waters from Luzon Bay, stand 326 meters apart from each other.

With the influx of tourists to the area, not far from the 120-year-old Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos town west of here, livelihood entrepreneurs and makers of souvenir items have literally sprouted.

Many houses have begun selling garlic and onions, straight from their farms.

The more enterprising and skilled ones make wooden replicas of the windmill, complete with rotating blades, pebbles and seashells.

The project in Bangui Bay consists of 20 wind turbines and each is capable of producing electricity up to a maximum capacity of 1.65 MW, for a total of 24.75 MW.

Officials say this project is a sustainable energy that could help minimize the cost of electricity consumption in favor of the customers within the Ilocos region.

The Windmills, the first wind power plant in the country and Southeast Asia, has been seen as setting the trend in the development of renewable energy this side of the world.

The flagship project of the NorthWind Power Development Corp. initially consisted of 15 Vesta wind turbines generated 24.74 megawatts and completed on May 7, 2005.

Another five wind turbines were later added, increasing the plant’s total generating capacity to 33MW.

Support facilities included the 5.7 km 69 kV transmission line from the plant to Laoag City and the 30 MVA 13.8/69 kV substation, according to official information.

The Bangui wind farm is a response to the government’s call for the development of renewable energy sources.

Dubbed “clean and green,” it is a milestone that jump-started the initiative of the government for energy projects across the country to cut down dependence on existing generating systems using imported fossil fuels.

The use of and emissions from fossil fuels, scientists proved, have catastrophic effects to the environment which largely contributed to climate change.

According to official sources, there would be more windmills in the province, following the go-ahead from Gov. Imee Marcos.

“We break our dependence on fossil fuels and within the next few years, we must generate 50 percent of the energy used by the province from renewable energies,” Marcos had said.

Investors and developers of renewable energy have become interested in investing in the country following the passage of RA 9513 or the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 which gives incentives to foreign and local developers, suppliers and end-users of renewable energy.

Official sources said the Windmills supply 40 percent of Ilocos Norte’s electricity through its connection to the Luzon Grid, delivering power via Transco Laoag and reaches households as far south as Badoc and Pinili via the Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative.

Here, only a town away from the northwestern side of Cagayan, wind mostly blows from the northeast, from the sea towards the land.

To optimize the full benefit of the winds, turbines are installed along the shore facing the sea effectively removing wind breaks and achieving a terrain roughness of class 0, according to official sources.

According to the sources, tourism in the province—rich in stone churches of the Spanish era and works of nature—has been lately boosted by the Windmills, appropriate symbols of renewable source of energy.

Topics: Bangui Windmills , Bangui Wind Farm , Northwind Power Development Corp. , Laoag City , Energy , Tourism
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