Roark L. Masbad

TOWARDS the end of November, my social media feeds went alive with news about an island in the American Samoa shifting its power source from a purely diesel solution to solar power. When I heard and read about this, this put a sense of hope for me in terms of solar power advocacy. The full adoption of solar power for the entire island means that it’s already feasible these days to power an entire community out of solar power. This is also an indication that battery technology development has grown by leaps and bounds.

Although the island’s shift to solar from diesel may be seen as another showcasing of technological capabilities, there’s a more practical reason behind it. The island of Ta’u is as remote as it can be.

For perspective, check out the map below.

The system to generate power is composed of "more than 5,000 solar panels and 60 Tesla power packs” and "is now entirely self-sufficient for its electricity supply”. That self-sufficiency provides a lot of savings in the long run for the island especially if one is to consider how far the diesel fuel came from in its previous setup.

I’m pointing this success out because this is proof of concept that systems like this one have the potential to become the answer to power needs for our country. One primary challenge, as I see it, in delivering electricity to remote areas is geography. Especially on inter-island power delivery. Perhaps, making things a whole lot easier for private companies or individuals in setting up solar power generation systems can help lower the price of electricity and, maybe, raise standards because of competition.

In line with this, I’m also looking forward to a more competitive market here in the Philippines when it comes to home-based solar power generation. This should make these systems more affordable to more people and allow consumers to have the choice to rely fully on traditional sources like power generation and distribution companies or generate their own power and sell back the excess.

I, for one, would really want to setup a home-based solar power setup to get me off the grid and maybe even get credits back for the power that I put back on the grid because my home solar power system has surplus stored power that it can push back into the grid.

If homeowners are incentivised because they installed their own solar power systems, there would be more of these installations going up. More installations, more power generated (in a collective sense) from these homes. And if the installed capacity to generate is always more than that which is used by each home, we’d probably get to a point that there’s always an excess from each household that they can pump back in to the grid.

I don’t have the economic math for this imaginary situation that I have in my head but I have a feeling that it only be a good thing for everybody rather than being bad.

But let’s not forget ever that our country is a tropical country. More than half of the time, we get sunshine. We are, I believe, in prime real estate on the planet to generate solar power. With the right planning, investment and technology, we can become an energy powerhouse in the region. (Sunnex)