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July 25, 2014

Free Us From Brownouts!

With the recent spate of brownouts, have you ever thought what you could do and what you would pay to be able to produce your own power? I know that our good friend Joel Magsaysay of Ilog Maria Farms must be having the last laugh. Joel has been “self sufficient” in power since a few years ago, so brownouts are no longer a problem for him, so with electric bills that just go up each month.

In Silang, Cavite where he has been living for over 20 years now, Joel started putting up solar panels to generate electricity which he uses in his small manufacturing facility and in his home. Next up, he put up a windmill (albeit designed and redesigned for adaptation to the circumstances) to pump his own water.

Wind turbines amidst corn crops for bio mass

wind turbines amidst corn crops for bio mass

A few years back, he showed me his storage batteries, his homemade generation system which now has liberated him from the electric power companies. Do you not wish we could do the same?

During brownouts, our first reaction is to power up the generator. Usually diesel-fired, these gensets emit diesel fumes and cause a lot of noise pollution. But we do not have much choice. Well, guess what? There are now hybrid gensets powered by solar and diesel. Then maybe we would be better off using only half the diesel and causing half the pollution! They are called PV-diesel generators and are now used in Germany, as we discovered during a recent Green Learning Visit to Berlin.

An electric charging station for cars and jeeps

An electric charging station for cars and jeeps

Second, we can start using electric vehicles but only if electricity rates would go down. That would happen if there are alternative sources for energy. Do you know that in one mall we visited in Germany, their airconditioning is powered by heat that they harness from their own exhausts? How nice is that? You use excess throwaway heat to cool your premises.

Solar panels with trackers that follow the sun

Solar panels with trackers that follow the sun

What about solar power? Many detractors will tell you that it’s very expensive to use solar because of the cost of Photo Voltaic panels. Well, guess what? Silicon, which is the main ingredient of PV panels are aplenty in China, which is just next door to us. So, prices of PV panels have come down tremendously. In fact, in our newest store, we contemplated the use of solar panels because we were short on electrical load. It is now possible. We are approaching liberation from the power companies. The window is closing for monopolies to control our power costs. Just like the cell phone technology and the advent of alternative message platforms, we can now viber messages rather than text them. The same will happen to power supply. We will soon be able to produce our own solar power at least to lessen our dependence on power companies.

In Saudi Arabia, a forward-looking company called Saudi Aramco is now producing solar and wind power. It is not just depending on oil which is a finite resource. This is a wonderful development from visionaries who see beyond today’s profit-making. I wonder who of our local power companies will take the challenge to go beyond oil, hydropower, and beyond geothermal. Who will harness wind and sun and resell it back to us?

We need to look at alternatives, at renewable sources of energy. If we push the demand for solar power, businessmen will answer the demand with cheaper imports and eventually, cheaper power for all of us.

There are two things solar power addresses in our country. The first is: electrification of those islands and towns which are off-grid. For the first time in many years, children can now study at night because of solar power sources—thanks to visionaries like Jim Ayala and Solar Energie Stiftung. The second use is to reduce our dependence on imported oil. The sun is there for us, almost 12 hours each day. Like a cribsheet waiting to be opened, the answer is infront or on top of our heads. The sun is there. What we need is to harness its power and use it the way nature intended it to be.

Worm's view of wind turbines

Worm’s view of wind turbines

We also have wind power and we have so much biomass waste. You wonder why we (the public and private sectors) do not bother to explore these alternative sources or renewable sources. Is it because we also own stocks in the power and oil companies who make money off us, especially during brownouts? It is funny, don’t you think? The companies make more money because we pay higher rates—and we hold stocks and help them make more money. Uhm…let’s say that again?

In the end, it is up to us the consumer to live a more sustainable life. Of not having too much dependence on power companies, of not having to use so much electricity so they (the power companies) do not make so much money, and then they may think of renewables and how to make the earth cleaner and to allow us to breathe better. It is all a cycle…and we are a part of it.

If we did it to the telecom companies, by reducing text messages, thereby reducing their incomes—why can we not do it in power as well. The alternative technology is available. It may not be as simple as using an app (e.g.Viber, whats App) to force a phone company to democratize rates. But it can start with using solar power or wind power or even muscle power—walk, don’t ride.  Bike, don’t drive.

And look for that visionary company that will give us choices: wind or sun, these are renewable sources which are always available to us and is virtually free.

So think about these the next time there is a brownout. Is it not time to shift to other sources of power?


Photos by Chit Juan

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One Comment on “Free Us From Brownouts!”

  • chris says July 25, 2014 at 6:39 am

    Thank you soo much for that article. Ever since I arrived in your beautiful country I wonder the same. At the recent Typhoon I showed a few neighbors that my solar powered power packs aren’t so crazy after all and charged their phones an mine daily till power was restored. A lot of work is needed to change peoples mindset on this and see that it is possible and actually quiet easy to do this.



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