LAOAG CITY, Ilocos Norte—Ilocanos captured the wind and harnessed its power, and, as a result, confirmed a widespread belief that they are truly “kuripot” or tightwads, according to Sen. Ferdinand Marcos.
“Call us kuripot if you want. That’s our answer. We don’t waste anything,” Marcos said, looking undecided with his smile as spokesman of the Ilocano race. “We don’t mind being called kuripot.”
Some Ilocanos might still resent the kuripot tag, but they are united in Ilocos Norte in their pride for capturing the wind in the town of Bangui, where a wind farm have revolutionized electricity generation, making it possible for the Philippines to break free from the clutches of oil exporting countries.
Marcos, son of ex-president Ferdinand Marcos, is former governor of Ilocos Norte. He started building windmills that face the South China Sea along the coast of Bangui in 2005. The wind turbines are the first and biggest in Southeast Asia.
The 20 windmills, which form a single line along a nine-km stretch of the shoreline, generate a total of 51 megawatts of electricity. It has eliminated brownouts in the province and reduced the emission of greenhouse gasses that cause global warming.
Marcos said the success of the windmills in producing clean and cheap electricity have encourage them to venture into commercial production and bring the technology to other parts of the country.
“It is a doable commercial enterprise. This is not a pilot project. This is business,” he said.
He said the Northern Luzon UPC Asia, a joint venture company between the AC Energy Holdings of Ayala, and the Philippine Investment Alliance for Infrastructure, is building an 81 megawatt Caparispisan Wind Energy Project in the rolling grasslands and forestlands of Pagudpud.
It employs the newest technology in turbine drive and generator system, which has no gear box, and it requires less maintenance and operates at lower cost, Marcos said.
Ronald Goseco of NLUPC said the Caparispisan wind farm is expected to start commercial operation by the end of 2014 and “it can meet a significant portion of the Philippines’ renewable energy target” of at least 5,500 megawatts.
He said the Caparispisan wind farm, which will have up to 32 wind turbines and an investment of $250 million, will bring economic benefits to the region and generate employment to local residents.
“Since it does not require fuel because it’s renewable, it is sustainable and cheap. The wind provides the energy,” Goseco said.
He said the windmills, which are 230 feet, or as tall as a 23-story building, with 135-feet long blades, will be a tourist attraction and educational for the public regarding clean, low-carbon energy.
Goseco cited the following advantages of wind energy: no harmful emissions such as sulfur dioxide that bring acid rain, wind is a no-risk supply that serves as hedge against price volatility of gas and coal, absence of mercury and heavy metals that pollute rivers and pose health risks to people, plants and wildlife.
Marcos said that aside from wind power the Ilocanos also built a solar power plant on sand dunes through photovoltaic technology, which uses solar panels to absorb the rays of the sun and converting it into electricity.
“This is another source of power that we do not buy since we get it from the sun. This is another way to be thrifty. This is the Ilocano way,” Marcos said.
Lito Badua, Vice President for engineering in Asia of Mirae Asia Energy Corp (MAEC), a well-known renewable energy developer, said the 20 megawatt Solar Power Generation Project was scheduled to be finished in May this year at Barangay Paguludan in Curimao town.
Gov. Imee Marcos, sister of the senator, said the wind and solar power plants have turned Ilocos Norte into a renewable energy center of the country.
“This is our way of helping the economy and saving the environment,” Sen. Marcos said. “The windmills and the solar plants are in keeping with Ilocano culture of being kuripot.”