Japanese firm completes first solar power project in Kalinga

May 13, 2009

Sunlite_solar Lantern

Updated May 13, 2009 12:00 AM MANILA, Philippines – PHILSTAR

A Japanese-affiliated renewable energy firm has completed the first solar power project in Kalinga province.

Solutions Using Renewable Energy Inc. (SURE), an affiliate of Japan’s MG Leasing Corp., said the project will provide electricity to the barangays in Pinukpuk, Kalinga which are too far from the nearest transmission lines.

SURE spokesman, Clarence de Guia said the Japanese-backed power firm saw the need to put up the solar panels in the area as connecting to the Luzon power grid the three Pinukpuk barangays – Asibanglan, Limos and Ba-ay – is not feasible at this time due to the huge cost involved.

Pinukpuk is a municipality in Kalinga province, located 530 kilometers north of Manila and about three to four hours drive from the provincial capital of Tabuk. The transmission line nearest the three Pinukpuk barangays is about seven kilometers away.

“Solar power offers the best alternative in this situation, because the barangays are off-grid locations,” De Guia said. “Moreover, solar energy is environment-friendly; it creates no toxic carbon emissions, which may upset Kalinga’s ecosystem.”

SURE, a firm with the most diversified mix of local renewable energy projects, earlier affiliated with MG Leasing, one of Japan’s largest leasing firms, by forming a joint venture company, SURE Eco Energy Philippines Inc. (SURE Eco). The joint venture will serve as the corporate vehicle in implementing several renewable energy projects in the country.

SURE is implementing the Pinukpuk lighting program in coordination with Kapit-bisig Laban sa Kahirapan – Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (KALAHI-CIDDS), a non-government organization involved in poverty alleviation.

SURE said the first phase of the project required the immediate distribution to the residents of 440 units of 12-watt solar panels, each with a seven-watt compact fluorescent lantern and a 12V/7AH battery. This is being undertaken under a subsidized financing program.

The second and last phase of SURE’s contract requires the firm to set up a solar-powered recharging station in each of the three barangays.

The stations will allow the residents to recharge other gadgets, like cellphones, laptops, television sets, flashlights and hand-held radio sets, powered by rechargable batteries.

“Most of these gadgets are considered rareties in the barangays, and their absence contributes to the area’s isolation,” Roderick Dumallig, a KALAHI-CIDDS community worker, pointed out. “The use of these modern devices will, therefore, break the isolation of the villages from the rest of the world.”

Both phases of the SURE project cost only P2.93 million or just a fraction of the investments that otherwise would have to be raised to connect the barangays to the Luzon power grid.

“The use of the lanterns has made an immediate impact on the barangays by extending the productive hours of their residents, many of whom are farmers and handicraft makers,” said Dumallig.

“Before the distribution of the lanterns, most residents stopped their handicraft work once it got dark, because kerosone lamps and candles did not provide them sufficient lighting,” he added.

The solar panels also helped the residents save on expenses for candles and kerosene. Before the introduction of solar power, the recipients, which earn only between P500 to P1,000 a month, spent half of their income just for kerosene and candles, Dumallig said. – Donnabelle Gatdula