Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

The Philippines is almost ripe for solar energy

Posted by butalidnl on 2 February 2008

In the Philippines today, solar energy – through photovoltaic (PV) cells – which transform the sun’s rays directly into electricity – is generally a niche product. It is seen mainly as a way of generating electricity for isolated communities e.g. small islands, etc. since these places would cost too much to get physically connected to the electricity grid (through transmission towers or underwater cables). Electricity from PV cells are viewed as too expensive when compared to electricity from the grid.

Electricity from PV cells is almost ripe for widespread installation in Philippine cities.
Some policy and infrastructure need to be put in place, but the underlying technology and economics of solar energy promise to make it ripe for widespread use very soon. Here are some factors:

Lots of sunlight. In contrast to European countries, the Philippines is endowed with a lot of sunlight all year round. And the sun’s rays are more intense, and the sun is nearly overhead at its highest point. This means that the amount of electricity that a PV cell can generate is potentially greater, and that the solar panel does not have to be “aimed” at a certain direction to get enough sunlight (it can simply lay flat on a roof).

Technological advances. Photovoltaic cells have become cheaper than before due to the substitution of expensive materials used (e.g. gallium and indium) with cheaper silicon, carbon and boron; thinner PV cells and easier installation and operation; advances in the efficiency of batteries, etc. Announcements of breakthroughs in the latest “thin film” technology have been made in January, which potentially could reduce the cost of PV cells by half, are a sign of big (and recent) strides in technology.

Rising Cost of Oil, Appreciating Peso. With the present state of PV development and the abundant sunlight in the Philippines, the cost of electricity from PV cells should now be around 12 pesos/KwH. If we compare this to the cost of producing electricity from oil (around 6 pesos/KwH) or coal (less than 4 pesos/kwH), then solar energy from PV cells is still more expensive. In the last two years, the cost of oil has doubled, and the peso has appreciated almost 20% in relation to the dollar. When the cost of oil rises, this would mean an increase in the cost of electricity generated by oil-fired generators. As the peso appreciates, the price of the imported components needed for solar energy generation goes down. If this trend of rising oil prices and appreciating peso is set to continue, the cost difference between solar energy and oil/coal will lessen.

Ripening?
Solar energy may not yet be ripe for widespread use just yet, but the economic and technological changes make it applicable for more and more places in the country. Where before, it may have been cost-effective for very small islands or really remote communities, the changes may mean that it could be cost-effective for less-remote communities. Some islands which are not connected to the national grid may be more dependent on fuel oil generators, which would mean that their retail cost of electricity would be significantly above the national average of 7 pesos/kwH. (assuming full dependence on fuel oil generators, retail prices would be above 9 pesos/KwH]) [in the national grid, about 30% of the electricity is produced from cheap renewable sources like geothermal, wind and hydroelectric]. In these places, solar power achieve grid-parity (which is when the cost of solar power is equivalent to the cost of electricity from the grid) would come earlier than in the main electricity grid.

While electricity from PV cells is still a bit more expensive than that from fuel-oil generators, there are some advantages of using PV cells even now. This would include:
Lesser transmission costs and risk. Solar energy is produced nearer the consumer, which means less cost for transmitting the electricity, and less risk of having power cuts because of problems in the transmission. After all, terrorists, rebels or extortionists could always blow up power lines; or an earthquake or other disaster could happen.

Possibility of having more sunlight, solar cells lasting longer. All the computations re the cost of solar energy are based on the expected amount of sunlight during a 20-year period. If there happen to be lesser cloudy days than the average, the electricity produced by the PV cells would be more, meaning that the cost per KwH would be less. Also, after the 20-year period, the solar cell will most probably still work; any electricity produced after this point is also cheaper.

Funds for projects that reduce CO2 emissions. Under international agreements meant to reduce greenhouse gases, funds are available for projects (especially in the third world) which reduce greenhouse gases. This is only available in cases where they are not (yet) commercially viable. Solar energy projects in the Philippines would qualify for these grants. These payments could easily bridge the gap between the cost of solar power and conventional electricity.

For more on solar energy: Solar Energy Links , Solar Energy in the Philippines

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37 Responses to “The Philippines is almost ripe for solar energy”

  1. edwin said

    Hello there. We have been talking about solar power for a very long time now. It seems, however, these so called ‘Philippines ripe for solar..’ thing is part and parcel of this continuing blah blah blah about solar energy.. I heard about Sinag car finishing ahead of others in an Australian car competition. Are our jeepneys going to be the next solar powered cars? Solar power is said to be sustainable energy, therefore, cheap. In reality, however, the cost per month in using solar energy at home, says a local bank, is 343 pesos per month? This is a joke. I know a lot of rural homes that pay 3 times cheaper than this. A German company tried to sell us solar power for heating our water!!! Who’s going to take a hot bath in very humid Philippines? Is this whole solar power thing a grand scam? Or simply, to bleed dry the unsuspecting governments of third world countries? What else could be the motives? You fill the blanks.

  2. michael said

    edwin, you do not understand the point…this is NOT for people living in huts or shacks who have such low bills such as 100php per month…this is for people with houses and businesses where bills are much higher, therefore the cost of the units is smart in terms of a 20 year commitment…and a hot shower or bath is fine for some people, maybe not you, but its still desireable…obviously you think you are the perfect example of the average filipino…dont think so highly of yourself…you have NO foresight in the long term…

  3. sec said

    OMG i have been always into greener enviro. We have to have a vision for the near and long future. Prices going up bec of oil price they say.. bills going up. electricity bills…

    anyway filipinos are yet to be more educated on these topics and be reminded of its issues

    I am currently searching about solar generated power and its possible business oppurtunities here in the Philippines. I would want to be in partnership with someone who has a better solid knowledge about this … hope someone picks this up…..:)

  4. sec said

    and Carlo thanks for this informative no nonsense blog. cheers!

  5. sec said

    if you know anyone who is interested in putting up a solar business in manila pls let me know

    • Reuel Solita said

      We have all kinds of solar high tech. in israel specially when we talking about solar hot water, israel was the first country who invented the solar hot water. We have also solar that produced electricity from 5kw, depend how manny pannels and kw you need.
      Im a pilipino who live in israel for more that 20years and running my own bussiness as an electrical, industrial and exclusive house electricity which controled by an intelegent pannel boards. I always think about having bussiness in solar systems, i will be very glad to bring my knowledge to my own country.

  6. andre lim said

    Dear Sec
    I am a solar energy solution provider over 10 years experience. You are right over the last 3 years people from Philippines have be making enquiries about solar power, But for very small single panel prolects., I am keep to install solar power stations like 10 to 100 MW.

    Do you know anyone I can work with, Its better to sell direct to consumers. I have tried to work with Meralco before, their terms makes it impossible for renewable energy maybe now its changed.

    Thanks

  7. mighty mike said

    HOW TO HELP RESIDENTIAL HOMES REDUCED THEIR ELECTRIC BILLS BY USING SOLAR ? IS IT WORTHY ? PLEASE ADVISE YOUR RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SAFE, EFFICIENT AND AFFORDABLE PRICE.

    MIGHTY MIKE

    • Reuel Solita said

      By using led ligths or PL ligths or EL ligths for ligthing your home, and by using solar energy free energy from sun for heating water instead of electrical heating that consumed high kw per hour. Above the celling ventillation can also reduced indoor temperature and avoid running aircondition and less your electrical bills.

  8. RUVILYN said

    hi were interestd of installing a solar energy is it already available in bohol if so how much will costs? will it really work on a 3 bed house fully airconed? pls give me advice… cheers

    • Myris said

      1M PHP should be a good amount. You may also want to choose monocrystalline solar panels over multicrystalline just so it will last longer

    • Reuel Solita said

      solar system is not depend how big is your house but how much KW per hour you need, heaters and airconditions demands high kw per hour, therefor your bills must be very high. Solar electricity cannot replace AC cureent, but if you dont exceed 5kw per hour then you can apply solar home electricity, and can cost you atlease 1.5M for an investment and you may not need of AC current.

    • butalidnl said

      If your airconditioners use up to 3000 watts, then you will need 24 KwH per day perhaps (if used them 8 hours/day). Plus the other uses of electricity in the house – let’s say 2KwH or a bit more. Then your need will be to produce 26 KwH per day. Solar system that produces 160 w cost PhP 50,000. Average sunlight could be put at 6 hrs/day. Thus, this means that this system would produce about 1 KwH/day. You need 26 of these (there are discounts with scale, but never mind this for a while). So, you would spend at most PhP1.3 million for the solar systems. However, you will have to also have as much as 52 square meters of roof space for the panels themselves.
      Of course, if you decide to do this, I suggest that you get a more accurate measurement of how much electricity you use per day, and also how long the sun shines in your place. And even make allowances for a lack of efficiency of the solar panel themselves.

  9. Andre Lim said

    Dear Ruvilyn

    How many hours will you use you airconditioning, if I assume for only the day 8 hrs, and you will run other appliances such TV fans, lights, computer, hot water etc.

    The cost depends other things such as batteries system for storage, charge controllers, installtion, how much radiation available etc, I should think not less than USD10,000

    Hope this hellps

  10. Ted said

    Greetings, and I hope my comment on this can generate further discussion as I am particularly keen on solar energy and other renewable energy sources.

    Solar energy in a country like the Philippines makes perfect sense to me. In agriculture for example, drying agricultural crops is one of the most expensive investments a commercial ag company can make. For this reason, there are only a few artificial drying facilities available. These facilities are either powered by diesel or ag by-products like rice hulls. The cost-effectiveness and reliability of both sources are subject to the whims and fancies of the petroleum companies and the rice mills. The sun on the other hand, unlike human beings, will less likely mess with its supply of energy if you are located in a country like the Philippines.

    My question is, given the still relatively high initial cost of solar-energizing your home or a facility like a drying facility, does the Philippine government have any tax incentives for companies who opt to tap solar energy as their primary energy source?

    To Mr. Andre Lim: how does one contact you in the Philippines to discuss possibilities in solar-energy applications in agriculture?

    Thank you!

  11. Ted said

    Also, does anyone know how solar energy and geothermal energy compare, when trying to choose one over the other for powering cutting and drying equipment in agriculture? I’m asking somewhat blindly as my research is only beginning, and even the most basic of answers would be appreciated.

    Thanks again!

    • butalidnl said

      Geothermal energy is usually generated on a very large scale, while solar energy is scaleable – from very big installations to rooftop panels. I don’t think that individuals or companies can “opt” for geothermal.
      At the same time, geothermal energy is already being generated for the Philippine grid; and thus, anyone using electricity from the grid uses geothermal energy already.

  12. Ted said

    Butalidni,

    Thank you for your reply, and that certainly straightened things out for me. For a while, I had this strange notion that one could tap power from a geothermal facility outside of the grid it powers. :-)

    Cheers!

  13. Leighton said

    Sec,

    I am a pinoy expat from Ireland and I’ve been thinking about settting up a business in the philippines in relation to solar energy.

    You know europe’s very into this and comparing the amount of sunshine between europe and the philippines alone, pinas has a lot of potential. i think it’s more on the attitude of the pinoys back home on how they would welcome solar energy,

    watchathink?

    • solariz said

      Hi Leighton,
      You can research the newly pass Renewable Energy Bill for your reference they are on its way to release the IRR. There will be tax incentives for you as entreprenuer and your future client.

  14. Jeh said

    Hi Leighton… if may i ask… what type of business you looking into?? trading? importing or installing?
    our solar panels cost around P2000 (10watts) we also have kits for household use. you may email me at jeh125@yahoo.com

  15. really good

  16. solar energy disdavantages…

    In the Philippines today solar energy – through photovoltaic PV cells – which transform [...]…

  17. Cindy said

    Thank you Solariz on your input re: Renewable Energy Bill. I am currently living in California but am likewise interested in putting up a solar energy business in the Philippines. Jeh or Andre Lim, I can help in targeting direct consumers and businesses in the areas of Cavite, Laguna and Batangas. If you’re interested to discuss further, please email me at cee814riley@yahoo.com. We need to do something to alleviate being under the mercy of MERALCO for energy. My family personally needs help on reducing our energy bills every month so this would be a mission worth working for, not just for ourselves but for our fellow Filipinos as well. For the article posted by butalidnl, thank you. That is very informative.

    • I am a solar integrator in Hawaii where there is alot of sun and opportunities here however I am interested in doing a business in the phillipines to help in the clean energy there. I am looking for some team players to invest with me and make an impact there! I can be reached at my email scott2serenade@yahoo.com

  18. chris said

    They have wind generators in western Australia that fit on top of buildings. Which consist of two horizontal barrels with blades on them to propel it would say they are alot cheaper to produce than solar systems.From what i could see of them on the TV they could have been made of a strong plastic. just an idea for you to work on.I’m british but live in australia.But i will be going to live in the Phil soon. If i was younger i would be interested. Just want to relax now with no worries. Good luck with your project.

  19. Charles brooks said

    Often we forget the little guy, the SMB, in our discussions of the comings and goings of the Internet marketing industry. Sure there are times like this when a report surfaces talking about their issues and concerns but, for the most part, we like to talk about big brands and how they do the Internet marketing thing well or not so well.
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  20. Luigi Fulk said

    In China it’s not unusual to see private residents to make the move to solar power. Like in any country the initial expense is high, but putting a few solar panels on your roof will pay off in the long run. It’s good for you and it’s good for the environment. Everybody wins, right? Not so fast, skippy. This is China, remember?

  21. Our new generation must be aware of saving the earth coz the old generation already mistaken and cost us from over heating the earth!! now we have an opportunity to used free energy from sun and reduce our electrical bills!!!
    We are here to give you the best solution and you can also be a part of us by saving the earth from over heating. We will very happy to give you the best israeli high tech. solar solution.

  22. solarsol@bitinit.com web site for solar solution G system solar solution israel

  23. For consutation about solar system, you can email me at solarsol@bitinit.com or you can visit our web site at Gsystem solar solution israel. All of us can get profit from using free energy from the sun and can help to protect our new generation to come.

  24. Juancho Ventenilla said

    Dear fellow solar energy advocates, is there anybody here who understands Dye Sensitized Solar Cell (DSSC)? Could somebody explain it to me. Thanks..

  25. mar said

    I’m interested at joining anyone who has a solar energy business here in the Philippines as a salesman or installer. Thank you.

  26. mar said

    I’m willing to work as a salesman or installer in a solar energy business here in the Philippines

  27. irwin chua said

    i am also interested in solar energy bu ti would like to know the area needed now we consume around 250 to 300kw of electricity that is the capacity of our transformer, may be if you can be cheap we are interested email me irwin_chua@hotmail.com

  28. bluexi said

    Solar power is not cheap for ordinary Pinoys. It might be cost effective for industrial purposes and probably for those can affords who consumes a lot of energy (electrical.)

  29. renewable energy…

    [...]The Philippines is almost ripe for solar energy « Carlo's Think Pieces[...]…

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