Special Feature

Considering Solar Energy

A news article shared through social media caught the Urban Roamer’s interest recently. It is an article published on Rappler which tells the story of Makati-based homeowner who used to be charged around P24,000 on his electricity bill but managed to cut his bill in half thanks to solar energy that now mainly powers his home. You can read up the story here.

solar power setup at a Taguig household (courtesy of Solaric)

It sounds too good to be true, not to mention hard to believe. But with rising electricity costs (hey, we do not have the most expensive electricity in Asia for nothing) and concerns about a possible energy problem that may be looming in the horizon, this seems to be an attractive alternative. But is it? 

Before anything else, we cannot begin discussing about solar energy if we have no idea what it is and how it works. As the name implies, solar energy mainly draws power from the sun. Sunlight emits energy which absorbed by what are known as solar panels which are usually placed on rooftops which converts them to electricity.

Sounds simple, right? While it may seem so, solar energy involves more than that, depending on the type of solar energy setup that you have. One of them is an off-grid type wherein your home is totally running on solar power and no longer relying on the regular power utility anymore. While the thought of being free from your power utility charges is enticing for one to consider it, one thing to note though is the cost involved to have this kind of setup. Also, while it can provide electricity even during a power outage experienced by your local power utility, off-grid solar power cannot accommodate power-hungry appliances like refrigerators for instance, unless you spend for additional components to make it work.

Off-grid solar power is becoming popular especially in rural areas in the country where electricity is scarce or non-existent and there is light electrical consumption. This photo courtesy of Sir John Philippines shows such a setup, a solar panel installed outside over a dedicated pole instead of the usual roof installation

Then there is the on-grid or, more correctly called, grid-tie system in which the house’s solar power is tied into the traditional power supply provided by the power utility. What happens here is that solar power kicks in at daytime, but at night or if the weather gets cloudy, the power utility’s supply fills in the gaps, so to speak. And if the solar panels generate more electricity than what is consumed, the power utility “buys” that excess power so it can be used for its other customers. The utility then “pays” the customer back through an arrangement known as “net metering” wherein the cost of that excess electricity is subtracted from the customer’s electric bill, which makes the bill lower in the process. The aforementioned story I related earlier is an example of a grid-tie system.

Net metering illustration courtesy of Solaric, one of the suppliers of grid-tie solar energy components

One disadvantage though is that with a grid-tie system, you will not be able to use your solar power in the event of an outage since it is tied with the utility’s power grid. Another thing to consider is that the net metering arrangement varies from one utility to another. For instance, Meralco, the utility supplying power to Metro Manila and nearby areas, requires a household to have a consumption worth P8,000 or above in electricity in order to have a net metering arrangement. Tough luck to the rest who are looking into a solar energy set up to save on electricity but have less than the above in consumption.

As it is, solar energy in the Philippines is fast becoming a popular alternative energy source despite it being relatively new. One factor for it is that, costs aside, it is an energy source that anyone can set up. Climate is also a factor; after all, we mostly get sunlight throughout the year; solar power can help lower electricity charges especially summer when electric fans and air conditioning units are used in full force. On the side of the government, use of solar energy and other forms of renewable energy is being encouraged thanks in part to the Renewable Energy Act of 2008. As far as implementation is concerned, well…that’s another matter entirely.

Still, we hope solar energy continues to make more headway in the country. Hopefully as well, there would be ways to make such energy source more readily accessible by more people for the sake of our environment and a more “democratized” energy for all that would hopefully lead to lesser dependence on traditional coal power plants and lower electricity rates in the country.

 

For more information on solar energy in the Philippines and possible setup solutions, check out the Facebook group Solar Power Philippines.

4 Comments

  • joseph d cunanan

    hello sir /maam

    Ask ko lang kung magkano ang magpaset-up o packages nyo sa installation ng solar panel na ang gamit namin 2dalawang tv 2 aircon split type 1 ref at 7 light..gaano kadaming solar panel ang kelangan..

    salamat joseph

  • mike de guzman

    Thanks for sharing my experience.
    We have been pushing for net metering and now have installed net metered houses in practically all the cities in Metro Manila. It has been a long exercise and mostly a learning experience for all, customers, even meralco engineers and local building officials on how to implement it effectively and safely. Technically anyone in good standing with the utility can apply. they can have a P100 monthly bill and still get it. the P8k limit is actually for peak off peak PLUS net metering. To be eligible for peak off peak you must have an average bill of 500kWh a month or about P5,500 to P6000 a month bill. What is peak off peak, its the time of use program renamed. Essentially Meralco has two billing rates, peak period M-F 8am to 9pm is peak rate or about P14 pesos per kWh..off peak is M-F 9pm to 8AM and all day sunday except 6PM to 8PM. When combined with lots of solar, the utility would barely bill you anything during the day at peak rate with exception of around 5:30 PM to 9PM.

    If you turn on your aircon at night to sleep you will be using offpeak power at P10/kWh.. average rate is around P12. We see ROI figures under 4 years when you get a POP NET meter.

    regards

    Mike
    http://www.solaric.com.ph

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