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‘NO MORE BROWNOUTS!’: Philippines town hails arrival of Tesla battery

The project was inaugurated on 11th March. Image: Solar Philippines.

The first solar-plus-storage microgrid in Asia to use Tesla’s Powerpack energy storage system is designed to end power reliability issues for a Philippines community, long used to losing light and productivity to brownouts.

The launch of 'Solar Para Sa Bayan', an initiative by Solar Philippines founder Leandro Leviste to bring cheaper, more reliable power to areas poorly served by utilities, was marked by the execution of a project utilising 2MW of PV panels manufactured by his company, 2MWh of Tesla's Powerpack lithium-ion industrial and grid-scale battery storage and 2MW of diesel backup.

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It is designed to supply reliable power 24 hours a day, over the entire year, at 50% less than the full cost of the local electric supply. According to Solar Philippines, local energy supply will no longer have to be subsidised by the state to the tune of over PHP30 million (US$577,000) annually.

Since 2014, the National Power Corporation (NPC) has been supplying power to Paluan, but only for 16 hours out of every 24, which was nonetheless a step up from four hours per day previously.

Leviste said that there was no reason this type of solution could not be rolled out to “every other town in the Philippines”. The company has also submitted plans in more urbanised regions to provide power, this time at a potential saving of around 30% on existing electricity costs, it claims.

This includes a 5,000MW proposal to replace all planned coal plants with solar-plus-storage. Solar Philippines has built its own solar panel factory in Batangas with around 800MW capacity, building up to 2GW. As an integrated developer, investor, EPC and now manufacturer, the company has 700 employees and 300MW of PV projects under construction or already completed.

“As utilities sign more contracts with expensive coal and gas power plants, we will continue to energise the Philippine countryside with solar and batteries, which are not only cheaper but now proven to be even more reliable than fossil fuel,” Leviste said.

“The people in Paluan, Mindoro now enjoy better service at lower cost than Filipinos in even major cities across our country; and we hope it is only a matter of time before all Filipinos will be able to enjoy the same.”

The project in Paluan, a municipality of Occidental Mindoro, was inaugurated in August last year at a ceremony attended by controversial president Rodrigo Duterte, as Solar Philippines opened its own factory. Duterte’s regime, perhaps best known outside the country for its ultra-hardline stance on crime, has the goal of ending energy poverty throughout the Philippines by 2022.

Mindoro, while particularly badly affected, is by far the only part of the Philippines where brownouts impair productivity and quality of life. Paluan Solar-Battery Micro-Grid, to give it its official title, began running in December and last week local residents at the project’s launch proudly put up a banner that proclaimed “NO MORE BROWNOUTS!”

Additional reporting by Tom Kenning. 

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