Solar power plants should not impact farmland, governor says
By The Star Staff
Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said Tuesday that proposed renewable energy projects should not impact farmland.
He made his remarks during a visit to the Ciro One solar energy farm in Salinas, a 90-megawatt (MW) plant that is close to being completed. The facility is a renewable energy project that has had a contract with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) since 2012 that is finally close to becoming a reality.
Construction on the project began last year and should be producing power next year.
The Salinas facility is the largest in the Caribbean. The interconnection work with LUMA Energy still has to be completed.
PREPA has been working on a first tranche of procurements for some 15 industrial-scale renewable energy projects that will total some 830 megawatts and will be available in two years, Pierluisi said. Ciro One is not in that first section.
“We will comfortably be generating 2,300 megawatts with renewable energy,” he stated, without counting residential and commercial systems.
The percentage of renewable energy in Puerto Rico can reach up to 10%, but at night the percentage drops. On average, it stands at 3% to 4%.
Regarding the goal established by law of reaching 40% renewable energy by 2025, Pierlusi said “a goal is a goal.”
“We are going to try to achieve it,” he said.
In addition, the Salinas project has a planned expansion that will allow it to generate an additional 50 MW. The cost of energy production on the farm is below 10 cents per kilowatt-hour. The level of energy production can provide electric power to about 60,000 residences.
“The project developers have decided to reserve more than 10 percent of the land for the development of agricultural activities, which will make it possible to take advantage of the potential of the area, as well as help mitigate runoff,” the governor said.
Regarding claims from surrounding communities alleging that the development of the solar farm affects them by causing flooding, Pierluisi maintained that the flooding problems there precede the project, and that if the situation has been exacerbated, it must be addressed.
The governor said less than 3% of the agricultural land owned by the island Land Authority has been impacted by renewable energy projects and that of total agricultural land, less than 1% has been affected.
“There is a lot of agricultural land that is not being used for its intended purpose,” he said, maintaining that, at the end of the four tranches of renewable energy projects, 5% of the Land Authority’s land will have been impacted.
“For the greater good,” he said.