Monday, November 17, 2008

Remote "Electrification" in the Rural Philippines - the Solar Method

In coordination with the Australian and Philippine governments, BP Solar installed one of the world's largest solar power projects (the Municipal Solar Infrastructure Project - MSIP) in the Philippines between 1997 through 2001--with ongoing imrpovements to the facilities. The Australian Government provided a grant and soft-loan combination of about $27 million to fund the project for which BP Solar provided design, training, engineering, and installation services after the Australian and Philippine governments confirmed the intended locations for the facilities.

The installation provides lighting for homes, schools, and community centers, as well as remote telecommunication, fresh drinking water, and vaccine refrigeration for about 721,140 individuals in 11 provinces, 53 municipalities, and 435 villages in the most remote and otherwise un-electrified areas of Mindanao and Visayas.

BP installed 1,145 packaged solar systems in the 435 villages in order to upgrade four district hospitals, 11 rural health centers, 104 village health centers, 260 village drinking water supply systems, six municipal halls, 201 village halls, 266 schools, and lighting for 289 communal areas.

A key factor is that before starting this project, the government and BP representatives prepared the villagers for the project by hosting community assemblies to introduce the project concept and the basics of solar electricity generation. Community groups were formed to manage the systems, and training was provided to 2,251 villagers so they could maintain and repair the facilities. After the installation, follow-up visits were conducted to ensure that the facilities were operating effectively without any troubles.

If more systems like this were installed through joint ventures with governments and private industries, there would be a lot less dependance on oil and other fossil fuels.

At the same time, although governments (federal, state, and city) should get on board with alternate, renewable energy sources for their facilities such as the Philippine installation, it's still up to us as individuals to investigate and implement our own energy-saving and alternate energy applications--whether it be solar photovoltaics, solar water heating, solar air heating, wind-power generation, and other sources.

(The BP Solar Project office is in Mandaue City, Cebu--and the BPPI's main office is in Makati City.)

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