Going solar

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

I’ve long believed that solar power is the way to go but unfortunately it was never accessible in terms of costs, and the choices and applications were very limited. In the beginning the big thing was solar-powered water heaters that started out at P50,000 back in the day, alongside puny solar powered courtesy lights, flash lights, fans and solar-powered combination radio and lights. My constant complaint was that suppliers or vendors never had anything practical or useful, particularly for farm applications such as for lights, water pumps, aerators and appliances. If you go to malls, the first thing they offer are garden lights or walkway lamps.

But thank God times and offerings have changed. You can now buy solar street lights and utility spot lights for farm, warehouse even garden applications that allow you to light up your perimeter fence, paths and driveways without spending a ton of cash every month/year. Many farms out here in Batangas constantly need security lights to discourage thieves from climbing walls or cutting through fences and so they light up their farms like a town fiesta was taking place. But now many of us have slowly invested in 200- to 300-watt solar powered street lamps that cost anywhere from P1,300 to 1,700 each and if you’re lucky, there are regular offers of “Buy one-Take one.”

I started with one by our front gate, then in front of the house, then we placed a few in strategic spots where people passed by and before long you realize that it gives you a sense of safety and security that you never imagined. I’ve also discovered that the old limitations of solar panels that don’t charge during rain or cloudy periods have been addressed or corrected by using efficient LED lamps with an added feature of the lamps going from low/dim to bright whenever the infrared sensor picks up man or beast within its range.

As I studied our safety and security concerns, I figured that we could actually use solar lights indoors. Today’s solar lights already come with remote controls that allow you to turn them on/off, low/bright and some even allow you to adjust the hours of use. Aside from the street lamp models, there are solar lamps that are more like spot lamps with about two to three meters of cable leading to the charging panel. This allows you to place the charging panel outside or on the roof while the lamp is inside the house or shelter. I installed one by our open kitchen so we don’t even have to flick the main lights on and so that there would be a constant light on at night. This proved ideal, so in the coming week we will be installing emergency lights in the bedrooms and toilets as a back up during blackouts and when we don’t want to run our small generator. This will put a stop to the risks that come with using candles as a temporary fix.

Given our experience during Typhoon Jolina where we had no power for three nights and knowing we are about to experience an increase in typhoons in season, those lights will surely make life easier and safer. In fact I even designed a “hack” project where I will use solar street lamps and make lightweight stand lamps that we can keep outdoors to charge and bring in during blackouts so my beloved wife Karen can carry on reading or knitting if the power goes out.

Once all that is in place, we hope to find, buy and assemble a solar powered water pump system to complement our D.I.Y swimming pool filter as well as our small tilapia pond. We built a 5 X 10 meter pool many years ago and one of the biggest challenges has been the maintenance expense for filter elements, chemicals and electricity cost to run the pump several hours every day. I eventually dumped the commercial type pool filter and built the same system used by KOI farms (carps) using large plastic containers, fiberfill and multiple UV lights. To further reduce algae or greening of the water we also draped shade nets over the pool when not in use. Without a doubt, we will have to use solar powered pumps to reduce our electricity bill soon.

Given all the benefits I’ve seen, I believe that one of the best things government officials can do is to provide at least one solar lamp for every indigent family or families with no access to electricity, whether they are in city centers or in far flung areas. Just like cellphones that no longer require cables and posts to reach people, just like satellite TVs that Cignal TV provides, it is time for local and national government to bring solar power and related equipment down to the barangays in order to prevent fires that so often happen because poor people or kids use candles. Give solar lamps so that children can study at night at home and not have to do it under a street lamp.

Solar power has many applications, from providing running water, irrigation, access to media and communications. If done right I am confident that the price would not be as expensive or anomalous as the current controversy over PPEs. If we consider that we regularly give several thousand pesos to indigent families and they end up spending P300 to P500 for electricity just for lights and fans, going solar would help put that sum to better use.

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with