DAVAO CITY, June 16 — The SIKAT solar-powered car may be the most flamboyant example of how solar energy can be harnessed for practical uses.
However, there are more practical uses for solar energy than you can imagine, and they are on the rise, right here in Davao City.
Aware of the growing concern for climate change, Davao consumers are now looking at the possibility of using solar energy in households and commercial establishments, paving the way for the rise of more green buildings.
Among the most aggressive when it comes to using alternative energy sources like solar energy is the city’s tourism sector.
Waterfront Insular Hotel Davao has opted to convert its diesel-fired boiler for hot water into a solar water-heating system. With the use of Solar Evacuated Heat pipes, the hotel now makes use of solar energy to produce hot water for up to 10,000 showers and for their kitchen and laundry areas.
The same goes true with the Crown Regency Suites/Prince Court Inn along Cabaguio Street, which also makes use of the Solar Evacuated Heat pipes for hot water production. Such technology supplies the hotel’s individual rooms with up to 6,000 liters of hot water per day.
Even the Davao City International Airport has taken advantage of this alternative source of power by commissioning a 4KVA (kilovolt-ampere) solar power system for its middle marker.
Residents of Marilog in the city’s third district were among those who first tried the benefits of solar energy, after the United States-funded Alliance for Mindanao Off-Grid Renewable Energy (AMORE), through the Yamog Renewable Energy Development Corporation, introduced solar power in the area sometime in 2005.
Solar energy is a renewable and a cleaner source of energy, making it an ideal alternative source of energy considering the worsening effects of the power crisis and the climate change. The use of solar energy is silent, non-polluting and requires very little maintenance. The equipment used to convert solar energy to power can however be expensive, but cost effective in the long run.
One of the enterprising companies that have started to introduce and sell solar energy equipment in the city is Edward Marcs Philippines, Inc. The company’s product line includes solar water system, solar assisted air-conditioning, heat recovery hot water system, heat pump water heater, solar panel and accessories, solar street light and solar lantern, among other items.
Any attempt to build a green building will be incomplete sans the inclusion of a technology that would harness the power of the sun. For one, most buildings, whether households or commercial establishments, make use of air conditioning units to keep the surroundings cool. That can mean a lot of carbon footprints and skyrocketing power bills.
Not with the solar-assisted aircon though, which can help save up to 50 percent in your power consumption. This is not your ordinary aircon though because while it still requires to be plugged in the power outlet, it makes use of a solar collector which collects energy from the sun and distributes it to the whole system.
“We are using the solar assisted aircon in our office and we are proof that it is really effective,” Lyka Tagalog of Edward Marcs said. The office uses a two-horsepower aircon, a water dispenser, computers, and lights among others and for all these, it gets a power bill of P1,200 to P1,800 per month.
Once the solar-assisted aircon gets exposed to the sun for three hours, it can already be used for up to four days, including night time.
However, you need to get the whole package which consists of the indoor unit, the condensing unit and the solar collector. Unfortunately, the technology to convert split type aircon units into solar powered-ones is not yet available in the city.
The split type solar-assisted aircon unit is available in different horsepower and the package amount depends on the horsepower of the aircon. A 1HP (horsepower) split-type will cost you P75,000.
On the other hand, a 2HP unit costs P105,000 and the biggest 6HP unit costs P231,880 for the entire package. The prices are estimates only, and do not include the installation cost for those exceeding the 10-feet mark.
Tagalog said solar-assisted aircon is becoming popular in the city because people have realized how cost effective they are in the long term when it comes to power consumption. They have installed this technology in Nestle Cagayan’s factory and office, Davao Invent Food in Tibungco this city, and Rural Bank of Mati, Davao Oriental.
Another way to keep households and commercial buildings green is to use solar power in a building’s water heating system. There are different types of water heaters, those that rely solely on electricity and those that rely on solar power, but which makes use of back-up electricity.
“While our water heaters can be used with back-up electricity, we suggest that users should only switch it on if the solar system can no longer produce sufficient hot water,” Tagalog said.
The smallest water heater system available here is worth P125,000 and which can heat up to 120 liters of water. This is already good for three to four bathrooms. The solar system is usually installed on the roof.
What is good about the solar powered water heater is that it can provide hot water for up to 26 hours, provided the unit has been exposed to the sun for three hours.
The sun can be a good source of power for those in the hinterlands like Davao City’s third district.
The AMORE project made use of solar modules to convert sunlight to direct current electricity, which is then stored in a battery. The battery is used to power the streetlamps and fluorescent lamps used in the homes of the beneficiaries. The project also required the establishment of solar charging stations where people can charge their solar batteries.
Unlike other sources of energy like fuel, the sun can exist for billions of years, thus making it an ideal source of energy for heat and electricity.
It has been decades since John Herschel, a British astronomer, used solar energy through a solar thermal collection box to cook food during an African expedition in the 1830s. However, man has not yet fully maximized this energy source.
Perhaps, the power crisis which is being felt in Davao City and in other areas in Mindanao, plus the negative effects of climate change, might encourage people to consider the sun as an alternative source of power, this time on a wider scale. (PNA)