Solar company finally ends decades-long brownouts in Mindoro town

Solar Paluan

In Photo: Residents of Paluan, Occidental Mindoro, celebrate the completion of the largest Solar-Battery Micro-Grid in Southeast Asia by Solar Philippines, which is delivering 24/7 power for the first time in the town’s history, at 50 percent lower cost than the local electric cooperative and the National Power Corp.

Manila, Philippines – WHILE millions suffer from daily brownouts, the town of Paluan in Occidental Mindoro is now completely brownout-free.

Solar Philippines has completed the largest Solar-Battery Micro-Grid in Southeast Asia. With 2 megawatts (MW) of solar panels, 2 MW hour of batteries and 2 MW of diesel backup, it is designed to supply reliable power 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, at 50 percent less than the full cost of the local electric cooperative.

The project uses panels from the Solar Philippines Factory, and is also the first in Asia to feature the latest Powerpack from Tesla, the leading manufacturer of batteries and electric vehicles.

This project also marks the launch of “Solar Para Sa Bayan,” an initiative by Solar Philippines founder Leandro Leviste to bring cheaper, more reliable power to areas poorly served by utilities, in support of the Duterte administration’s aim to end energy poverty by 2022.

At the project’s inauguration on March 11, residents raised a banner proclaiming “No more brownouts!” and recognized this event as a turning point for Paluan, which never before in history had 24/7 power.

To express gratitude for being chosen for this pioneering project, Palueños prepared a program, attended by over 2,000 people, from across Occidental Mindoro, who asked for similar solar-battery microgrids to be constructed in their towns.

In his welcoming remarks, Mayor Carl Pangilinan said Paluan first received four hours of daily service in 1978 from the Occidental Mindoro Electric Cooperative (Omeco), which later waived its franchise, given its difficulties in serving the town. In 2014 the National Power Corp. (Napocor) resumed service, for an average of 16 hours a day, with outages sometimes lasting several days.

Pangilinan noted that since Solar Philippines began operations in December 2017, Palueños enjoyed their first Christmas without brownouts; students can now study at night and use computers at school; and an ice plant is now being planned to support local fishermen.

Apart from reliable power, Solar Philippines is serving the town at 50 percent lower cost than Napocor, which spends up to P20 billion a year from the Universal Charge for Missionary Electrification subsidy, funded by all Philippine consumers. With Napocor, Paluan used to consume subsidies of over P30 million a year, but with Solar Philippines can now operate subsidy-free.

Addressing Palueños, Leviste said: “We see ourselves as partners in developing Paluan into a first-class municipality in the coming years. While other companies seek to charge the highest rates possible, we believe that offering quality service at the lowest cost is a win-win, helping the areas we serve while growing the market over the long term. Your success is our success.”

“If we can do this in Paluan, we can do this in every other town in the Philippines. No longer will Filipinos from provinces with inadequate electric service have to relocate to Manila or become overseas Filipino workers. They can instead work in the industries that will move into their hometowns.”

Rep. Josephine Sato lauded the groundbreaking project: “At first, I had doubts about the reliability of solar power, but after seeing the batteries end the brownouts that have hampered the local economy, I believe this project should be replicated all across Mindoro.”

Once dubbed the “Brownout Center of the Philippines,” Mindoro is only one of many regions where extended outages and flickering lights are a fact of life—including the rest of Southern Luzon, Northern Luzon, Western Visayas, Western Mindanao and Southern Mindanao.

Electricity is not only a problem in the provinces. Last month Solar Philippines submitted an offer to provide 24/7 power to Meralco using solar and batteries, to lower rates by 30 percent in Metro Manila, which has among the most expensive rates in the country. Meralco stated it is currently reviewing the offer, acknowledging the low cost of solar, while noting the need for batteries to ensure reliability.

Leviste ended by noting: “As utilities sign more contracts with expensive coal and gas power plants, we will continue to energize the Philippine countryside with solar and batteries, which are not only cheaper but now proven to be even more reliable than fossil fuel. The people in Paluan, Mindoro, now enjoy better service at lower costs than Filipinos in even major cities across our country; and we hope it is only a matter of time before all Filipinos will be able to enjoy the same.”

The Paluan Solar-Battery Micro-Grid was first presented in August 2017 at the inauguration of the Solar Philippines Factory with President Duterte, who commended Solar Philippines for having “the vision and the will” to tackle projects that do good for the country. President Duterte encouraged the company to continue such projects, as challenging as they may be, sharing the advice that “all you need is the will to implement and to do it to turn your vision into a reality.”

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