September 25, 2017, 1:40 am
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Going solar gets cheaper

Businessman Ferdinand Raquelsantos, president of Solar and Wind Power Co., started his business as a system integrator of solar power solutions 10 years ago, with his own house as his prototype.

Driven by his consciousness to renewable energy, Raquelsantos back in 2007 when solar power was popular only to the Class A market, had his 600-square meter house in Alabang installed with 12 solar panels (and one wind turbine).

Before the switch to solar, Raquelsantos was paying P24,000 in his monthly electric bills. 

To this day, the installation is paying for itself, saving the Raquelsantos household in electric bills. 

Raquelsantos said one of the first few installations his company did was for a fairly similar-sized house in Ayala Alabang. The cost of the solar integration was P2 million. At the time, the return on investments (ROI) was 13 years.

But Raquelsantos said today, that cost has gone down significantly,  by 75 percent, to about P450,000 and the ROI much ahead, 4.5 years or even shorter. The reason is there are now more players, 80 in total, and the cost of panels has become affordable.

As a system integrator catering to households and small businesses, Raquelsantos’ company provides the whole suite of solutions: design, supply of the panels and the inverters, installation of the panels, commissioning or running the system as well as maintenance. 

Normally, the process starts from defining how much panels are needed and how much budget is required to power up the house, including the number of appliances as well as the time of use.

A minimum package typically involves 1.5 kWh (1,500 watts) equivalent of six solar panels at 250 watts each. That system could power up a house consuming 240 kWh and could save P3,500 to P4,000 a month. 

The cost is about P160,000 and payoff also in 4.5 years.

Raquelsantos’ company also offers 5 kW of 16 panels (with each panel 315 watts or the equivalent of 5,000 watts). That can generate about 900 kwh with a savings of up to P11,000 under the net metering scheme.

The ROI already factors in the 10-percent annual increase of Meralco rates for those in Metro Manila.

Raquelsantos said a client in a subdivision who is away from home four months in a year is able to offset his electric bill credits for the eight months he stays in the Philippines as the solar power system continues to generate power even if no one uses it.

As Meralco does not pay back those credits in cash, Raquelsantos recommends that solar panels installed should generate enough supply within one’s consumption. 

He also suggests that households go on-grid and use Meralco as the “storage” of power generated by the solar power system.

Modular installations like the ones that can be bought off the shelf — usually used to power a specific electrical appliance that uses a lot of electricity like aircon — are fine in far-flung areas.

Storing electricity generated by solar panels in batteries may also be ill-advised as the batteries cost a lot, at least P80,000.

A solar power installation has a life of about 20 years, useful beyond  when the ROI is hit.

Households are also advised to maximize the use of power during off-peak hours when power cost is cheaper. This means ironing should not be done between 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.  and air conditioning should be turned on after 9 p.m. Doing so would save a household as much as 32 percent in electricity.

Because the price of the solar solution has gone down, Raquelsantos now have clients in C and D markets, still mostly in subdivisions.

 “Ten years ago, it was all about being eco-consciousness. Today it is more financial and investment consciousness,” he said.

With growing popularity, Raquelsantos has tapped other sources of solar panels aside from Sun Power, its partner since 2003.

Raquelsantos said the market remains lucrative as more people are keen to switch to solar. But he said Filipinos need to be educated more on the how to maximize the benefits of solar power. (I.Isip)
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