Let there be light–in remote barangays

February 2, 2013

Masbate InstallationNueva Viscaya

Homes in a housing project in Masbate come with roof-mounted solar panels and Students in Nueva Vizcaya
watch a DVD movie for the first time.

For city dwellers, living without electricity is unthinkable. From sunup to sundown, practically everything people do is powered by electricity. Without it, their quality of life and livelihood would drastically change. It's no surprise then that they complain no end when a brownout happens. So imagine how residents of remote barangays in the country live with no steady source of electricity or no power at all because power lines cannot make it to their areas due to terrains and distance.

They use kerosene lamps to light up their nights, a fire hazard that also produces climate-changing carbon-dioxide emissions. Others who could afford it rely on electric generators.

But when electricity becomes available to far-flung homes, residents get to watch DVD movies for the first time, use electric fans and read properly under a light.

However, their power comes from an unusual utility grid—solar power. Through solar photovoltaic panels mounted on roofs or poles, the sun's energy is harnessed and routed using an inverter, which provides power to home outlets.

These towns in North Luzon, Apayao, Kalinga, Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela, Agusan del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Sultan Kudarat, Masbate, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Zamboanga City and North Cotabato are part of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Rural Electrification Program.

In cooperation with Alliance for Mindanao and Multiregional Renewable/Rural Energy Development and the United Nations Development Program, Propmech Corp. has implemented this program through its solar division, Green Heat.

Selected by bidding, local solar-power provider Propmech offered the lowest price and showed expert capability and manpower to design and install the systems. Propmech is also engaged in marine engineering.

Throughout these provinces, over 600 barangays were "energized" using various systems tailored to the area's needs and specifications. Selected by the DOE with the help of electric cooperative in the provinces, these barangays never had electricity before.

Today homes in these barangays generate about 300 watts to 500 watts a day. Their residents now enjoy using compact fluorescent lamp and light-emitting diode lights and appliances, such as radio, television DVD player and electric fans.

They use different solar home systems, ranging from 20Wp to 300Wp (watt peak), which demonstrates that solar PV as an alternative-energy solution is applicable in a relatively smaller scale.

Through the DOE subsidy and payment plan, residents can afford the systems with prices ranging from P19,000 to P175,000, depending on specific requirements. Over time, homeowners recoup their investment and enjoy a level of energy self-sufficiency.

Introducing solar power to remote areas has made residents of these barangays enjoy a productive yet sustainable lifestyle.