Central Highlands glowing in green energy prospects

January 20, 2020 | 11:01
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With ample land funds, abundant natural resources, and a young labour force, provinces in the Central Highlands region – including Dak Nong, Dak Lak, Gia Lai, Kon Tum, and Lam Dong – have many favourable factors to attract investment from domestic and foreign businesses.
central highlands glowing in green energy prospects
Provinces in the Central Highlands region are working on renewable reforms

More than that, local authorities have taken constant efforts to accelerate administrative procedure reforms, striving to turn the region into truly investment venues, particularly for renewable energy ventures.

The Central Highlands once wooed investment from domestic and foreign businesses capitalising chiefly on the avalanche of natural resources. However, the region has now shifted into attracting investment on a selective basis to ensure sustainable development.

According to recent reports on the region’s investment promotion results, projects and capital in the area mainly focus on natural resources exploitation, infrastructure construction, tourism, and renewable energy.

Over the past few years, Dak Lak and Gia Lai have courted a slew of investors who came to survey and invest in solar energy and wind power. So far, many projects have come on stream, making important contributions to ensuring national energy security and promoting socio-economic development in the region.

Solving problems

The Srepok 1-Quang Minh solar power complex project in Buon Don district of Dak Lak is the province’s first solar farm plugged into the national grid. This is also Vietnam’s largest solar power plant cluster.

According to Nguyen Van Tuan, deputy general director of Dai Hai Power Development and Investment JSC, the investor of the project, the Srepok 1-Quang Minh cluster was built on 120 hectares of space with a capacity of 100 megawatt peak (MWp) and the total investment of VND2.3 trillion ($100 million). After more than four months of construction, the project was put into operation and connected to the national grid from early March 2019, with stable production capacity as designed.

“Based on the company’s calculations, each year, the solar farm can feed into the national grid about 150 million kWh, generating a turnover of about VND300 billion (over $13 million), and contributing VND30 billion ($1.3 million) to the local budget. The construction of the project in this dry and arid land not only helps exploit the immense local potential for clean energy but will also solve the economic problems these localities are facing,” Tuan said.

Referring to renewable energy, the wind farm in the remote commune of Dlie Yang, of Dak Lak’s Ea H’leo district, is the first of its kind in the region.

The project, funded by HBRE Wind Power Solution, is being implemented in three phases from 2017 to 2022, with the total capacity of 436MW, an investment of nearly VND13 trillion (over $565.2 million). Once fully operational, it will have a total capacity of 210MW and supply two billion kWh of electricity each year, becoming the wind power plant with the biggest capacity in Vietnam.

Nguyen Hoang Hiep, deputy director of HBRE, unveiled that while executing the project the company has used advanced technologies, and the flagship wind measurement tool Lida, while buying wind data from NASA in the US.

Along with Dak Lak, Gia Lai province also has great solar power potential. Surveys show that Krong Pa district has the highest number of sunshine hours in the province with about 1,700 hours a year, allowing solar power plants to work effectively.

With the scale of 49MWp, Krong Pa Solar Power Plant was inaugurated and put into operation at the end of 2018. In May last year, Gia Lai Electricity JSC officially began the operation of Chu Ngoc LICOGI 16’s solar power project phase 1 with a capacity of 15MWp.

These two projects were developed by Gia Lai Electricity JSC with the total investment of VND2.67 trillion ($116.1 million), located in Chu Gu and Chu Ngoc communes in Krong Pa district.

Building the foundations

To Van Chanh, Chairman of Krong Pa People’s Committee, said that Gia Lai People’s Committee has taken 17 investors to survey the solar power potential in Krong Pa for 19 projects of more than 1,000MWp in total capacity. Particularly, the two projects of Gia Lai Electricity have finalised the investment phase and have been connected to the national grid.

Ho Phuoc Thanh, director of Gia Lai Department of Planning and Investment, commented that many investors are exploring, surveying, and setting up solar and wind power projects with the total scale of about 3,000MWp. If the projects were all materialised, Gia Lai would grow into a major renewable energy hub.

He added that Gia Lai will focus on this field, laying the groundwork for a breakthrough in local economic development. So far, the province has greenlit 23 investors to survey and invest in 33 solar power projects. Of those, two projects with the combined investment value of VND2.67 trillion ($116.1 million) have been completed and put into operation; 11 projects were reviewed and approved for additional planning; and 20 projects are in the survey stage.

Pham Ngoc Nghi, Chairman of Dak Lak People’s Committee, noted that the province has been recognised for its great potential for solar and wind power development. Renewable energy also charms investors. “Over the past years, Dak Lak has created favourable conditions for investors to survey and facilitate projects, striving to turn this great potential into tangible results,” Nghi said.

According to a recent report by Dak Lak Department of Industry and Trade, up to now, five solar power projects have been approved and added to the power development planning at all levels, with the total capacity of 2,646MWp and value of VND63.2 trillion ($2.75 billion). Of those, four projects have commenced operations with capacity of 210MWp and total investment value of about VND5.3 trillion ($230.4 million). In addition, 19 other solar power projects (8,253MWp) have been put forward for approval and addition to the power development planning.

Solar and wind power are clean energy sources that are being encouraged in Vietnam, especially in the Central Highlands region. When these projects come on stream, they will not only turn the sunny and windy lands which are unfit for agricultural production into power production hubs, they will also solve power shortages during the dry season. Even more, they would improve people’s lives and create motivation for the Central Highlands’ sustainable development.

By Thai Hoa

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