MANILA, Philippines – People have been toying with the idea of renewable energy for years now, but the primary source of electricity is still largely fossil fuel. Most forms of green energy rely on the forces of Mother Nature – the wind, water, and sunlight. So without the proper utilities, location, and weather condition, renewable energy is difficult to pull off.
Fortunately, the tropical climate of the Philippines provides the ideal conditions for solar energy.
What is solar energy?
Solar energy is just that – energy harnessed from the sun.
It is a renewable form of energy, as its source of power is sunlight. It is not wasteful and it produces no harmful byproducts. This and the fact that it’s a self-sustaining form of energy makes it a much more appealing option in comparison to fossil fuels.
The use of fossil fuel results in carbon dioxide and pollutant emissions like sulphur dioxide – creating acid rain. Even the process of extracting fossil fuel is harmful to the environment due to mine stripping operations and the potential of oil spills1.
But the primary drawback to fossil fuel is that it is still a non-renewable source of energy. Being solely reliant on fossil fuel, there is the chance of depletion, and potentially, power outages.
Solar energy, being clean and renewable, is the more sustainable and environmentally sound alternative to fossil fuel.
Leandro Leviste, 21-year old Yale student, is also founder and president of Solar Philippines. All photos by Ruy Martinez
Solar energy efforts in the Philippines
With news of the potential 2015 power shortage, Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla is encouraging everyone to start making more prudent energy consumption choices. This is why more and more companies are thinking green.
SM Cares, a division of SM Foundation and the Corporate Social Responsibility arm of SM Prime Holdings, responded with one big project: The Solar Rooftop Project in SM City North EDSA.
“This campaign is in support of government’s call to action,” says Annie Garcia, president of SM Supermalls. “We are a big power consumer, and if you say there will be a shortage, we’d like to be able to do our share.”
Last November 24, SM launched the Solar Rooftop in SM City North EDSA, marking an important milestone on their commitment to clean living and environmental sustainability.
Leviste says, “The SM solar plant marks a watershed moment for the solar industry of the Philippines, because where SM goes, the rest of the country will follow. From other large commercial establishments down to the million solar-powered homes that Mr. Hans Sy has often personally remarked is one of the things that he intends SM’s solar powered malls to inspire, this project is the spark that will lead the private sector towards a solar-powered future.”
The 5,760 solar panels atop SM North Multilevel Carpark Building
The SM group unveiled the 5,760 solar panels installed atop the roof of SM North Edsa’s Multilevel Carpark Building.
The event was attended by President Benigno S. Aquino III, the President of SM Prime Holdings Hans Sy, House Speaker Sonny Belmonte, SECRETARY Jericho Petilla, Annie Garcia, and Leandro Leviste, among others.
The cumulative energy harnessed from the solar panels generates up to 1.5MW – enough to power around 1,000 average households.
In the context of the mall, the 1.5MW is enough to power all of the mall’s:
16,000 lighting fixtures
This simple change can offset 1,200 tons of Carbon Dioxide from SM North Edsa’s average CO2 emissions. You can liken the accumulated offsetting effect to planting 6,000 trees per year.
Making the Green Switch (From L-R): Sonny Belmonte, Jericho Petilla, President Benigno S. Aquino III, Leandro Leviste, and Hans Sy
When scaled up, these solar panels can have a great impact on the environment. Garcia shares, “What is good for renewable energy ends up being really good also for business and good for the communities.”
Solar technology is not a new concept. It is something that researchers have been developing for years. But it took some time for solar energy to penetrate the market and become a feasible form of alternate power.
Today, solar panels are becoming more available as technology develops and costs go down. Leviste explains, “…solar panel prices had plummeted around 80 percent between the year 2008 and 2013. And since 2013 we’ve achieved what is called grid parity, where the levelized cost of electricity from solar panels is now competitive with fossil fuel generated grid electricity.”
Taking the lead
SM North Edsa’s Green Switch campaign marks the beginning of new opportunities. SM Prime Holding and SM Cares will continue the advocacy for green energy. The next couple of malls in line to make the switch will be SM Mall of Asia and SM Dasmariñas, Cavite. Solar energy will also be a key consideration in the redesign of SM Marikina, SM Masinag and SM Muntinlupa.
The goal is to champion clean living and someday make solar energy ubiquitous. Hopefully, these malls can serve as models for other businesses and even private homes to make the green switch. –Rappler.com
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