For the last two months now, I have welcomed sunlight into our home in a way that has made me conscious of the sun’s life-giving presence. Thanks to the advice and assistance of Bert Lina, the visionary entrepreneur behind Air21 and other creative interventions beneficial to society at large, I have installed solar panels on my rooftop. The solar energy I harvest on a reasonably bright day takes care of about 17 percent of my household electricity needs. This is not insignificant, but is not very much either if one merely looks at it from the vantage point of savings.
Solar panels and, to a certain extent, storage batteries, have gone down considerably in price over the years. Still, the initial capital outlay may be such as to dissuade a typical middle-class family from going solar. In my case, I chose to dispense with storage batteries, relying instead on an inverter system to supplement our daytime electricity requirements. This simply means I can’t store power; I must completely rely on Meralco for electricity from sundown to sunrise.
My decision was primarily driven by curiosity. I have been to countries where, from a train, one marvels at endless stretches of landscape carpeted with solar panels or dotted with rows and rows of gigantic windmills—all producing renewable power from Nature. I was struck to see apartment buildings all over Turkey that uniformly have solar water heaters on their roof decks.
There is plenty of sun and wind where we are on the Earth’s surface. Why can’t we tap this natural blessing, the way we have used our geothermal and hydroelectric resources? The answer, I am told, is that renewable energy remains costly because of the technology, and so it is highly subsidized by governments. Because of this, solar power is mostly seen as an alternative for communities lying outside the grid, but largely uneconomical in places where steady power supply is available from power plants driven by natural gas, coal, or diesel. But this may change sooner than later in the light of the demonstrated capability of oligopolistic power producers to dictate power rates in a flawed market like ours.
More from this Column:
- Going solar
- Culture, faith, and the Black Nazarene
- Church assets and the laity
- PDAF scholars
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