Friday, June 26, 2015

Establishing Solar Power Plants

by Anton Antonio
June 12, 2015

Carbon emission is the biggest contributory factor to global warming.  The worldwide acceptance of this fact has triggered a mad rush towards alternative forms of energy.  Renewable energy largely harness the potential resource from geothermal, hydropower, biomass, wind, ocean, and solar.  Solar power is definitely an ideal source of renewable energy considering the lengthy average annual sunlight in the Philippines.  But what is the price that has to be paid to establish solar power plants?

Solar power technology is quite expensive at present.  While the rich countries can afford it, developing economies, on the other hand, are hard-pressed to cough out enough financial resources avail of this technology.  In time, as with most new technology, production cost for new technologies will go down and everyone can access them.

In the case of Currimao, Ilocos Norte, where a 20-megawatt solar project is in the works, there are other issues and concerns.  Over 60 hectares of forest land and over 1,000 fully grown trees has to be cleared to make way for the solar panels as part of the infrastructure.  The main solar plant is not much of a problem as it requires a reasonable area for it to be built on.  The area where the solar panels will be laid out, however, requires a considerably large area.

With all these problems confronting the establishment solar power plants especially the issue of “space”, what then would be the best way forward?  Sacrificing forestlands should be last in the list of priorities… if it should be in the list at all.  But there surely are other alternatives.  My little thoughts bring me to: (a) the utilization of idle, non-productive areas; and, (b) altering existing irrigation canals.  Irrigation canals have no other purpose but to provide a distribution of water to farmlands.  Laying solar panels on top of irrigation canals will also prevent evaporation which also translates to reduced systems loss for the irrigation system.

There really are a lot of workable alternatives to simply cutting and clearing trees.  Solving the problem of sufficiency in energy by creating other problems (such as carbon sequestration capacity, quality air, etc.) will only equate to more problems.  Other ecological and environmental concerns must be settled before establishing solar power plants.

Just my little thoughts…

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