Many people around the world were excited and mesmerized by the appearance in the sky of the rare supermoon on Nov. 15, 2016. Astronomers say that the “extra-supermoon” is 4 percent bigger and 35 percent brighter than the usual moon that we see. The phenomenon occurs when the full moon is closest to the earth during its monthly orbit. And since it happens only every 68 years, a person has only one chance in his or her lifetime to see it, making the supermoon event even more dramatic.
While this is not meant to lessen the celestial beauty of the rare supermoon, we do know that the light from the moon comes from an outside source—the reflection of the sun. We may further appreciate how sunlight benefits mankind by turning our attention to the sun as a source of energy, or solar energy.
A Ramon Magsaysay awardee, Indian social entrepreneur Harish Hande recently came to Manila to encourage and guide local stakeholders put up rural enterprises using solar power. He urged the farmer and fisherfolk, solar energy providers, local government, financing institutions and NGOs to work together in setting up viable solar power projects for rural communities. Named as “Father of Affordable Solar Power India,” Mr. Hande helped poor people in rural India gain access to affordable electricity using solar power. He is a strong advocate of poverty eradication and local development through sustainable and renewable energy.
With the abundance of sunshine all year round in the Philippines, solar power has strong potential for both urban and rural areas. Through partnerships between the private sector and local communities, solar panels have been installed in schools and establishments in provincial areas such as Negros Occidental, Pangasinan, Pampanga, Davao and Isabela, among others.
The technology of using solar energy as power source shows efficiency and long-term usability. A common form of solar energy today is photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, which absorb sunlight and convert them to electricity. Solar panels are installed at rooftops of homes and establishments. Investing in solar energy is considered sustainable since we have sunshine almost all year round. PV systems have two types of design. One is grid-tied, which is connected to an electrical utility. This type cannot be used at nighttime when there is no sunlight. The other type is off-grid, a stand-alone power system that needs batteries for energy storage. This type permits operations at night or during limited sunlight.
The economics of using solar energy show cost savings. In the long run, solar energy turns out cheaper than conventional energy. Prices of solar panels have gone lower in terms of pesos per watt. Solar power modules could last up to about 20 to 25 years.
Energy officials estimate that nearly 5,000 sitios or small villages across the country remain without electricity. Government incentives and private sector initiatives are required to make solar energy more accessible, especially to far-flung areas. One can hope that more homes and establishments will ultimately benefit from the “supersun.”
Rachel A. Quero lectures part-time on strategic human resource management, and organizational behavior at the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. She manages educational programs at MFI Foundation, Inc. that covers technical teacher education and entrepreneurship.