Philippines is known to be one of the large importer of petroleum product in the world. Electricity in the country is known to be one of the most expensive in the world. However, it has been a basic necessity for us Filipinos for we rely mainly on petroleum products as our source of energy. From cars, equipments, machines, plants, and factories – all these make use of gasoline and oil. With the major crisis in petroleum supply, experts are now tapping alternative sources of energy as one possible solution, including solar power, to help mitigate a possible shortage in power supply.
Solar energy has been used by people since ancient times by using simple magnifying glasses to concentrate the light of the sun into beams so hot they would cause wood to catch fire. Here in the Philippines, at least 19.1 Million of our countrymen have no access to modern electricity (NEA, March 2011) and have never even seen a white light. This makes oil lamp or “gasera” in native language useful to them. Even before the passing of the Renewable Energy Law in 2008, the Philippines has been using Solar Energy in providing basic lighting in very remote and off-grid areas.
Solar Energy or energy produced by the sun in the form of heat and light. It is considered to be one of the most renewable and readily available source of energy for it is available in plenty and it does not belong to anybody. This being said makes it one of the most important and most sustainable form of renewable energy.
Mainly, solar energy can be used to convert it into heat energy or it can be converted into electricity. Solar energy can be converted into electricity by means of solar thermal energy and photovoltaic. Through Solar Photovoltaic (SPV) cells, solar radiation gets converted into DC electricity directly. This form of energy can be used to power solar watches, calculators or traffic signals.
- No Pollution : Solar energy is non-polluting, clean, reliable and renewable source of electricity. It does not pollute the air by releasing harmful gases like carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide. Solar energy does not require fuel and thus avoid the problems of transportation of fuel or the storage of radioactive waste.
- Long lasting solar cells : Solar cells make no noise at all and there are no moving parts in solar cells which makes them long lasting and require very little maintenance.
- Renewable Source : Solar energy is a renewable source of energy and will continue to produce electricity as long as sun exists. Solar energy from sun is consistent and constant power source and can be used to harness power in remote locations.
- Low maintenance : Solar cells generally doesn’t require any maintenance and run for long time. More solar panels can be added from time to time when needed. Although, solar panels have initial cost but there are no recurring costs. Initial cost that is incurred once can be recovered in the long run.
- Easy Installation : Solar panels are easy to install and does not require any wires, cords or power sources.
- Initial Cost : The initial cost of purchasing and installing solar panels always become the first disadvantage when the subject of comes up. As new technologies emerge, the cost of solar panels is likely to decrease and then we can see an increase in the use of solar cells to generate electricity.
- Location : The location of solar panels is of major importance in the generation of electricity. Areas which remains mostly cloudy and foggy will produce electricity but at a reduced rate and may require more panels to generate enough electricity for your home. Houses which are covered by trees, landscapes or other buildings may not be suitable enough to produce solar power.
- Pollution : Most of the photovoltaic panels are made up of silicon and other toxic metals like mercury, lead and cadmium. Pollution in the environment can also degrade the quality and efficiency of photovoltaic cells.
- Inefficiency : Since not all the light from the sun is absorbed by the solar panels therefore most solar panels have a 40% efficiency rate which means 60% of the sunlight gets wasted and is not harnessed. New emerging technologies however have increased the rate of efficiency of solar panels from 40 to 80% and on the downside have increased the cost of solar panels as well.
- Reliability : Unlike other renewable source which can also be operated during night, solar panels prove to be useless during night which means you have to depend on the local utility grid to draw power in the night. Else you can buy solar batteries to store excess power which you can later utilize in the night.
- Installation area : For home users, a solar energy installation may not require huge space but for big companies, a large area is required for the system to be efficient in providing a source of electricity.
Solar Energy in the PhilippinesPeople in Pangan-an Island, Cebu, Philippines, enjoy 24-hour electricity service from a centralised solar photovoltaic (PV) system donated by the Kingdom of Belgium. This power plant consists of 504 PV panels, a battery bank with 118 storage batteries, a charge controller, and 2 inverters made in Germany. The solar power plant has been operating since December 1998, supplying 230 Volt (V) Alternating Current (AC) electricity to around 200 households. The Panganan residents use electricity for lighting, radio and TV sets. The sustainability of this power system is questionable, however. The batteries need to be replaced in the next two years, which will cost the community $ 100,000. So far, they have only saved around $ 13,700 over the last 7 years. At the rate of savings from their monthly collection, they would not be able to raise the amount needed to replace the batteries. This illustrates that components for PV systems are still very expensive, particularly for people living in rural areas. (Credits: Dialog | Asia)