P10-M solar donation brings daytime electricity to Bohol island

Starting its local business operations in a unique manner, a renewable energy firm has donated a P10-milliom solar facility to Pamilacan in Bohol to provide electricity to the off-grid island.

Solar panels are mounted on the rooftops of the Pamilacan National High School buildings

Solar panels are mounted on the rooftops of the Pamilacan National High School buildings

In a turn-over ceremony held at the island, local firm WeGen unveiled a 39kWp solar photovoltaic (PV) and battery storage system that would provide energy to at least 300 households in Pamilacan.

Before the arrival of the solar panels, Pamilacan – although just 40-minutes away by boat from the old town of Baclayon – did not have electricity during daytime and had to rely on diesel-powered generators during nighttime.

The lack of power sources has hampered the development of the island and prevented the residents from having a decent way of life.

As there is limited power supply, teachers and students cannot use computers or use devices to connect to the Internet. Fisherfolk also cannot refrigerate their daily catch, while community health centers have a hard time delivering basic services because refrigeration and sterilization equipment cannot function in the island.

But with the P10-million solar energy project, named Kahayag sa Pamilacan (The Light of Pamilacan), electricity will now be available to the whole island from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.

As night falls, the existing diesel-fed generator supplied by the National Power Corporation Small Power Utilities Group within the franchise of the Bohol Electric Cooperative I, will continue to provide electricity from 4:00 pm until midnight.

The energy harvested by the solar panels are stored in this state-of-the-art storage facility

The energy harvested by the solar panels are stored in this state-of-the-art storage facility

WeGen co-founder and CEO Julito “Sarge” Sarmiento, a lawyer who has made his mark in the energy sector, said in an interview with reporters that the long-term objective is to deliver solar-powered electricity in the island 24 hours a day.

The WeGen system comprises 135 mono-crystalline solar panels connected to deep-cycle silicon power maintenance-free batteries with a capacity of 200 ampere hours.

The solar panels are mounted on the rooftop of the Pamilacan National High School building, which was chosen for its ideal location and has been retrofitted to support the solar panels with a lifespan of at least 25 years. The industrial-grade batteries, meanwhile, have around four years of useful life.

A software that aggregates energy stored in the batteries also allows the island’s residents to earn extra income by selling excess energy to the grid, electric cooperatives, or the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM).

This is a milestone for Bohol as 87 percent of the province’s total energy demand is still sourced out of neighboring Leyte, according to WeGen.

To ensure the viability of the project, Pamilacan residents will contribute to a solar trust fund that will be collected by the island’s Electric Consumers Association (ECA) for the maintenance and future expansion of the solar energy system.

Each household will contribute approximately P250 to P300 per month for their daily daytime electricity consumption at an amount equal to or lower than the rate they pay for their diesel power energy.

“WeGen firmly believes that the best solution to address the electricity needs of a tropical archipelago is to use distributed solar energy. Installation is fast, and you won’t need to use submarine cables to connect to the national grid,” Sarmiento said.

WeGen co-founder and CEO Julito “Sarge” Sarmiento being interviewed by the media during the turn-over ceremony at Pamilacan island

WeGen co-founder and CEO Julito “Sarge” Sarmiento being interviewed by the media during the turn-over ceremony at Pamilacan island

Although registered as a local firm, WeGen has a software partner from Germany and sister firms in Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore. Their solar panels, like those installed at Pamilacan, are mostly sourced from China.

“We are agnostic in terms of the source of our solar panels. What makes our product distinct is our software from our German partner which allows us to aggregate excess energy and sell them to the grid,” Sarmiento said, referring to the SchwarmDirigent system from German green energy firm LichtBlock.

He said that unlike most businesses which conduct their CSR (corporate social responsibility) activities after having gained profit in its operations, WeGen adopted a different tack by donating the solar facility even before it has made money from its business.

The company’s strategy seems to be working as Sarmiento said they now have solar projects, mostly from the government, in the main island of Bohol and other provinces across the country.

“Moreover, the local folks in Pamilacan who installed the solar panels have been certified and can now work in our solar projects outside the island,” the lawyer-executive said.

Comment on this post