Guam eyes 100% renewable energy by 2045

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Thousands of photovoltaic solar panels glisten against the backdrop of the blue ocean in Sasayan Valley in Mangilao, heralding a new era of clean energy production on Guam.

Power officials and project contractors have officially opened the Mangilao solar farm, pushing Guam closer to its goal of becoming 100% powered by renewable energy by 2045.

“This new facility is by far the largest power project on Guam,” says Jeong Heon Kim, president of Mangilao Solar LLC Guam, which installed 60MW Solar PV Park 1. “This will satisfy the eco-friendly policy of the government of Guam. Our company takes great pride in providing energy for this wonderful community that has embraced us.”

Construction of the solar power farm started in May 2020 and was completed in 25 months. The 200,000-panel solar farm officially launched on July 22 during back-to-back events that coincided with the groundbreaking on the Ukudu Power Plant on a 45-acre property in Dededo.

“In January 2021, we tried to avoid any potential delay of the project, so the crew got the foundation work going,” says Jeong Irl Min, CEO of Guam Ukudu Power. “We finally got the permit this year. Once completed, the Ukudu plant will serve as Guam’s baseload power plant contributing to grid stability and energy savings for the island.”

John Benavente, general manager of the Guam Power Authority (GPA), says the twin events marked the culmination of “decades of work toward Guam’s Clean Energy Plan” that seeks to diversify the energy sources for the island.

First released in 2005, GPA’s Integrated Resource Plan seeks to significantly reduce Guam’s reliance on fossil fuels.

“By definition, as an island, Guam is isolated, with no one to provide us energy but ourselves. Guam is a very strategically located island with huge military defense importance to the Indo-Pacific,” Benavente says.

GPA has teamed up with the Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO), to meet Guam’s huge energy supply requirement. The Guam Ukudu Power and Mangilao Solar Guam LLC. are subsidiaries of KEPCO, an integrated utility company owned by Korea Development Bank, foreign investors and the government of the Republic of Korea. KEPCO is headquartered in Naju-si, Jeollanam-do, South Korea.

KEPCO manages the financing and assumes the costs of both projects under the Build Operate and Transfer model. Under the power purchase agreement contract, ownership of the facilities will be transferred to the government of Guam in 25 years.

“This contracting model, and about another 400MW of renewable projects, will ensure GPA achieves its 50% renewable energy mandate by 2035, while addressing intermittency concerns in providing more reliable, clean, affordable energy to all ratepayers,” Benavente says.
     Guam spends an average of $100 million on fuel for its aging power plants. The ever-increasing fuel prices impose a burden on ratepayers.

At today’s fuel prices of about $150 per barrel, Benavente says, the renewable power infrastructures will translate to $100 million in savings that will eventually circulate in Guam’s economy and ease the burden on ratepayers. “Coupled with low-cost utility-scale renewables, it is now possible to see energy rates become affordable within the next three years,” the GPA general manager adds.

The Mangilao solar farm, which began operating in June, generates energy under the contract purchase price of $0.085/kWh and is estimated to produce a minimum amount of 141GWh per year. 

“The plant reduces our annual fuel oil import by another 250,000 barrels,” Benavente says. “The 25-year power purchase agreement contract with KEPCO Mangilao Solar with a limited 1% annual price escalator provides our ratepayers an excellent hedge against fluctuating fuel oil prices.”

While the Mangilao solar farm is now operational, the Ukudu 198 MW Combined Cycle Plant project is targeted for completion in April 2023.

Lee Heyn-Bin, KEPCO’s senior vice president and chief business management officer, says he expects global events to pose challenges that might disrupt the project. “We are aware of the challenges we face, but we will ensure that electricity is provided on time.”

The $562-million Ukudu power plant will replace Guam’s decades-old generating plants and will feed 60% of GPA customers who currently get their power through underground lines. 

“This state-of-the-art, high-efficiency baseload power plant will increase the reliability of service,” Benavente says. “Not only will this new plant meet and exceed EPA clean air regulations, but it will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and our carbon footprint.”

He describes the Ukudu project as “a thoughtfully designed plant” that will use treated wastewater, which would otherwise be discharged into the ocean, to cool the steam generator and significantly limits the pull of fresh water from the aquifer.

The Ukudu plant is situated on higher ground in the northern part of Guam. The site was deliberately selected “to guard against tsunami and climate threats,” Benavente says. “This new plant will realize a 51-plus thermal efficiency. What this means is that this plant will cut our fuel imports and consumption by at least 500,000 barrels per year due to its high thermal efficiency.”

Benavente notes that the new plant, coupled with 25% renewable energy sources that GPA currently provides, will reduce Guam’s annual fuel consumption by about 49 million gallons per year in 2025, reducing annual fuel costs by about $100 million.

“We are ready to take the next step toward securing a more reliable and affordable energy future for our ratepayers,” Benavente says. “Both milestone projects are crucial to the reliability of our system and the affordability of our service to our ratepayers, not only today but on a sustained basis for decades to come.”

While Guam is targeting full reliance on renewable energy by 2045, GPA officials are confident the island will achieve 51% renewable energy by 2035.

CAPTION:Mangilao Solar Power Plant opened in July 2022 and is the largest power project on Guam.

PHOTO BY MAR-VIC CAGURANGAN

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