Solar energy finds way into second-class town

by Maricar Cinco, February 20, 2015
from Philippine Daily Inquirer

THE TOWN plaza and children’s park in Odiongan town, Romblon province, stay alive even during brownouts with street lights powered by solar energy. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

In Odiongan, a second-class town in the island province of Romblon, public spaces and alleys will be lit up using solar energy.

The municipal government, since January, is installing 28 solar-powered street lights around its town plaza and along the 400-meter JP Laurel Street that leads to the public market.

In July last year, Odiongan also installed 23 solar-powered lights around its children’s park. Six out of the town’s 25 villages also have solar street lights purchased through a P50,000 municipal assistance fund in 2014.

Alexander Foja Jr., the municipal project development officer, said the use of solar street lights is meant to reduce the town’s energy consumption.

It also promotes renewable energy amid a crisis in power supply being predicted by Aquino administration officials in 2015, he said.

“We try to be environment-friendly,” Foja said in a phone interview on Monday.

Each 5-meter-tall street light at the town plaza uses an individual solar panel to power up a 5-watt lamp at night.

Those at the children’s park rise to only about 3.5 meters tall but each post has two 5-watt lamps that derive energy from a single solar panel.

Each solar street light costs no more than P15,800, Foja said. “We hope to save more money in the long run,” he said.

Odiongan, with a population of 43,676, according to the 2010 census, serves as the province’s entry port and so far, is the most progressive among Romblon’s municipalities.

It is located on the island of Tablas, which is powered by the Tablas Island Electric Cooperative Inc. (Tielco) that uses energy from diesel.

As of 2013, Tielco has completed 85 percent of Tablas’ “total potential house connections,” according to a message from President Aquino posted on the government website.

Foja, however, said Odiongan   continues to experience brownouts while several remote villages in Tablas are still without electricity.

“We saw that people were happy (about the solar-powered lights). During brownouts, people gather at the park, it being the only place where there’s light,” he said.