THERE remains a "vast" opportunity in tapping the country's renewable energy resources, particularly the installation of solar PV (photovoltaic) in Luzon and other populated areas in the Philippines, China's largest solar maker LONGi said.

Speaking at The Manila Times forum titled "Propelling Renewable Energy Against Climate Change" on Wednesday, Sam Zheng, regional sales director of APAC LONGi Solar, recognized that while solar PV land usage is leading most other sources of renewable energy in the Philippines, there remains a vast potential for the development of this technology here.

"Moreover, it can be developed in populated areas and in different applications like floating rooftop and micro grid and they can also help to relive the grid pressure. The limited energy supply in Luzon and others islands in the Philippines can be resolved by solar PV which can bring a lot of clean and cheap electricity," Zheng said.

Zheng noted that solar PV is the cheapest source of energy in the world, which will continue to bring down the cost of electricity by 66 percent from 2023 to 2040. Between 2009 and 2018, many countries subsidized the installation of their solar PVs that has brought down the cost of energy by 75 percent. During the grid parity era in 2019 until 2022, electricity was seen dropping by at least 27 percent with solar PVs.

Through the years, the cost of building solar is declining mainly due to cost reductions in equipment such as modules, inverters and cables, according to Zheng. The higher system efficiency and technological breakthroughs also influenced the downtrend on cost of building solar PV and EPC (engineering, procurement, and construction), he added.

Divided into four segments

The country's energy systems is currently divided into four segments namely: utility (11 gigawatts projects pipelined at the Department of Energy with over 650 megawatts [MW] projects committed); Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (energy free trade market); net metering (residential rooftop installation); and self consumption. With these, Zheng said "we have a lot of motivation on the development of Solar PV in the Philippines."

As of May 2021, LONGi's commercial solar installation was picking up pace with 20 MW of projects signed. He stressed that the company's distribution of their technologies has been "better" coupled with increasing interests from project owners despite restrictions due to coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

Also, LONGi is taking advantage on collaborating with new booming sectors such as food and pharmaceutical manufacturing and vaccine-related cold storage to advance installation of solar PVs in the country, Zheng said.

With the increasing residential electricity consumption as people spend most of their time at home, "they are now considering the lower cost of solar PV generation."

In a utility scale, LONGi entered the Philippine market in 2017, supplying 100 MW of solar PV accompanied by 132 MW of wind hybrid projects in Ilocos Norte. Another 80-MW project reached the ready to build) stage last year but was delayed due to the pandemic. The project's construction is expected to commence by the third quarter of 2021.

Under the LONGi innovation efforts, Zheng noted that the company spends 5 to 7 percent of its total revenue to research and development annually, spending at least $1.2 billion since 2011. "So LONGi helped the industry to reduce 80 percent of cost in [mono] wafer production in the past eight years."

He cited that mono wafer's market share increased from 18 percent in 2015 to 90 percent in 2020. Over the past years, Zheng said wafer quality improved with reduced oxygen, carbon and metal impurities concentration, and increased minority carriers lifetime, thus, provide better quality wafer for cell processing.

Founded in 2000, LONGi is currently the world's largest manufacturer of high-efficiency mono-crystalline solar cells and modules, with 15 manufacturing bases and more than 30 branches around the world.