Solar power is practically unlimited (except of course when the sun goes down) but solar energy can be stored. With proper energy storage, nighttime power requirements (which are usually less than daytime requirements) can reasonably be met.
And unlike power from fossil sources, solar power does not contribute to the degradation of the environment.
A friend of mine who has had a hand in packaging some of the existing power plants in the country, gave the following explanation. On the part of the power producers, there is not much incentive to switch to solar at this time because they are still amortizing their investments in existing plants.
On the part of the consumer, over-all cost of solar power is still higher compared to traditional sources.
It is true, my low-profile friend said, that the cost of photovoltaic cells, the main component in solar power generation, has gone down by 40 per cent compared to 5 years ago. But it is the cost of transmission and distribution that brings the total cost up.
But what if the transmission and distribution charges are eliminated?
Then the equation turns in favor of solar power, he said. When that happens, solar power will really be much much cheaper.
With this in mind, it was with much pleasure that I read a recent article: “A power plant on every roof” by my friend, Doris Dumlao, who writes for the other No. 1 newspaper. In Facebook terms, I found the article too good not to Like, Comment, Share.
Doris reported on a new power project, modest but which could be a possible game changer. Doris was referring to the 700-kilowatt rooftop solar system installed atop Central Mall Binan by Solar Philippines.
Solar Philippines is headed by 21-year old Leandro Leviste, son of Senator Loren Legarda.
Doris reported that no less than Energy Secretary was very impressed with the project. “Solar technology is already tried and tested. The problem has been the business model and this is the first company to get it right,” Doris quotes Petilla as saying.
What makes it the right business model?
From day one, the mall owner is guaranteed savings. Cost is lower than Meralco rates because the cost of transmission and distribution has been eliminated.
In an interview with GMA News, Petilla explained:
“As an simple example, the cost of electricity from a coal plant can run up to P5.50 per kilowatt hour, plus P6.50 for distribution and transmission, which amounts to P12.00. If you install solar panels on your rooftop, you will only spend P9.00 per kilowatt hour for generation and no cost for distribution or transmission. This already saves you up to P3 per kilowatt hour.”
Front end expenses on the part of the project owner have been likewise eliminated, thanks to an innovative financing scheme arranged by Leviste with Bank of PI.
The project fully maximizes the use of the mall rooftop which otherwise would not have been put to productive use.
The same business model offers a lot of promise to other mall developers. In fact, SM already has similar and bigger projects in the pipeline, also with Solar Philippines. Let us hope that eventually the same advantages can be offered to interested residential owners.
In the meantime, may I say to Mr. Leandro Leviste and others engaged in similar solarification endeavors: More Power!