By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Rota-- The Rota Mayor's Office has broken ground on the Rota Aquaponics Solar Photovoltaic System project at the Rota Aquaponic Education and Training Facility in Sinapalo.
“More solar projects are forthcoming for the CNMI, and I thank the Rota Leadership, the Mayor, and Rota community for their patience as the government pursues on expanding the CNMI’s Renewable Energy Portfolio with all stakeholders," CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres said after the groundbreaking ceremony on July 22.
Torres acknowledges the need to make electricity more affordable in the Commonwealth, “This new solar integrated system, quite possibly the first of its kind on Rota, will provide this educational and training facility an opportunity to expand its program and save on electricity in the long run," he said.
Thelma B. Inos, director of the Division of Energy and the chair of the CNMI Energy Task Force, said “the system is estimated to generate 36 kilowatts of direct current power, which is able to handle about 52,000 kwh annually. This translates to a savings of about $27,000 annually and $675,000 over the lifespan of the solar energy system at 25 years.”
The solar energy system project is scheduled to be completed within the 138-day time frame and will be integrated with the net metering system.
This grid-tied system will be able to accommodate the entire load of the facility during the day and all other excess energy generated will be exported back to the electrical grid, crediting the aquaponics facility. The system will be installed under a contract with Micronesia Renewable Energy Inc.
Funded by a grant from the Department of the Interior's Office of InsularAffairs’ Energizing Insular Communities, the $153,000 solar energy system project has the capacity to power the current facility’s electrical load plus its expansion phases, especially as plans are underway to add additional fish ponds, planting beds and additional office units to support other agricultural-related programs under the Department of Lands and Natural Resources (DLNR) and the municipality with the end goal of sustainability.
Spearheaded by the Office of Grants Management under the CNMI Office of the Governor, Administrator Epiphanio E. Cabrera, Jr. expressed his appreciation to the Office of Insular Affairs, Mayor of Rota Efraim M. Atalig, Ivan Mereb, David M. Calvo of DLNR, Gus Maratita from the Aquaponics Facility, Thelma B. Inos from DPW’s Division of Energy and the CNMI Energy Task Force for the great collaboration and patience with the project which had started back in 2019.
He also acknowledged OGM Grants Specialist Frankie F. Angel for preparing the grant proposal and for following up with the federal officials on the status of the permits.
Cabrera said much of the delay was due to setbacks caused by Covid-19 and the need to secure federal permits from the US Army Corps of Engineers. We weren’t able to proceed with the contract’s routing, despite going through the entire bidding process, because our office needed the Authorization to Proceed (ATP) documentation from the federal grantor. The ATP document was received a month ago.”
Acting Mayor Jonovan H. Lizama said he looks forward to seeing more projects and funding for Rota. He highlighted the need for more collaboration with the central government to increase Rota’s economic potential.
David M. Calvo, Rota’s resident director of the Department of Lands and Natural Resources, said, "I wish that they continue coming to Rota to support us in bringing in more ideas and funding to continuously reach out and help our community.”