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From gasera to light bulbs, a Palawan coastal village embraces solar energy

There were only four houses in Albaguen when they moved there in 1948, and their only sources of light from then were traditional lamps — kingki, gasera, and moron (bottle with gas and strip of clothing material) — until they were able to upgrade to Petromax, a name for pressurized paraffin lamp that uses a mantle.

The Micro-Grid Hybrid Power System turned over by PSFI to the residents of Sitio Albaguen, Brgy. Port Barton, San Vicente. | Drone photo by Allen Shooter

Marciana Ronda, 88, has been living in Sitio Albaguen in the coastal village of Port Barton, San Vicente, for more than five decades after moving from Samar with her relatives when she was 16.

There were only four houses in Albaguen when they moved there in 1948, and their only sources of light from then were traditional lamps — kingki, gasera, and moron (bottle with gas and strip of clothing material) — until they were able to upgrade to Petromax, a name for pressurized paraffin lamp that uses a mantle.

“Lumipat kami dito kasi dito ang mga pinsan ko. Dito na ako nakapag-asawa pero kinasal kami sa Samar noong 16 pa lang ako,” Ronda said.

“Noong dumating ako dito iilan pa lang ang mga bahay tapos ang ginagamit namin sa gabi ay ang lampara o kaya ‘yong moron — ‘yong bote na may gas. Kapag nanganganak ako ganoon lang ang ilaw,” she said.

Like other distantly-located coastal villages in Palawan, Albaguen has no access to electricity supply despite being in Port Barton, a flourishing tourism destination in San Vicente.

But that is a thing of the past for the territorial enclave that has a population of over 600 residents because, finally, 24/7 electricity has come with the turnover on Friday by Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. (PSFI) of the Micro-Grid Hybrid Power System, an energy distribution network that relies on renewable energy to produce electricity.

 

Access to energy before Christmas

After three months of constructing the micro-grid project which is designed to provide nonstop electricity, over 117 households in Albaguen, including Ronda’s, will now get to spend their first Christmas with lights brightening their homes, said Antero Rebueno, senior project officer of PSFI’s SINAG or “Save, Invest, Nurture Access to Green Energies and Technologies”, access to green energy program.

Rebueno said the microgrid has 20-kilowatt capacity solar panels, a three-kilowatt wind turbine, and a 35 kVA diesel generator — all equipment is automated.

 

(L-R) Ynna Lauron-Doblado, program manager of PSFI Palawan; Port Barton Barangay captain Enrico de Jesus; San Vicente Mayor Amy Alvarez, and Antero Rebueno, senior project officer of SINAG.

“Solar pa rin ang ating source of energy dito. Mayroon tayong 20 kilowatts na inverter and that is 20,000 watts na pino-produce ng ating solar panels. The wind turbine is only to augment the batteries [ng solar panel] during the rainy season. If there will be no wind and sunlight for several days, the generator set will come in,” he said.

Rebueno said the scope of the system is enough to cover the 117 households in Albaguen with electricity supply.

“The capacity is more than enough para sa community,” Rebueno added.

Even if they are not in the area, he said they can remotely monitor the usage of the system by utilizing their MyPhone unit.

 

Albaguen Electric Association

Ynna Lauron-Doblado, program manager of PSFI, said the system will be managed by a community organization called the Albaguen Electric Association (AEA).

She said that each household will be paying P300 monthly for every three kilowatts of consumption and additional P15 for each in excess.

“P300 for every three kilowatts at kung lalampas sila, halimbawa lumampas ang consumption nila ng nasa isang kilowatt ay additional P15 ‘yon. Nakabase ang P300 na ‘yon sa capacity to pay of the community. They need to raise the funds for the maintainance of the system and for the eventual replacement of the batteries. ay base din sa kanila na kaya nilang ibayad monthly,” Doblado said.

 

Sitio Albaguen coastal community in Barangay Port Barton, San Vicente Palawan. | Photo by Allen Shooter

“Kung gusto nilang maging sustainable ito, isa sa malaking responsibility ng mga taga Abaguen ay ang pagbayad monthly. Para mayroong [gagamitin for the] maintenance ng system,” she added.

Troubleshooting will not be a problem, she explained, because around 15 individuals in the community underwent training on Basic Electrical Installation and Maintenance with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) for the purpose.

She said they made sure of this to ensure that when there is trouble in the micro-grid project, someone is ready to respond immediately.

“Nag-train tayo ng mga taga dito para pag nagkaproblema, kaya na nila ayusin ito o kaya ay ilahad ang problema sa supplier or service provider. We will make sure that they have a link with the supplier for repairs of the system. Of course PSFI will still be here to assist,” Doblado said.

 

Proposed next project

Mayor Amy Roa Alvarez said in an interview with Palawan News that they are targeting to put up the same project in the Barangay Poblacion at Sitio Kasuyan next year.

She said that they are currently finishing up some documents for the project.

“Casuyan is our next target. We are just ironing out paper works and everything, hopefully, next year [masimulan] ang project na ito. Casuyan is an island located in Poblacion, San Vicente,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez said that San Vicente has four barangays without access to electricity because an efficient and suitable system matching local resources and demand expectation needs to be developed

“We still have four and a half or five barangays without kuryente — Caruray, Binga, Canipo, Kemdeng and Sto. Niño. Actually, si Sto. Niño ay may part na may kuryente na,” she said.

She also expressed gratitude to PSFI for the accomplishment of the project.

“I would like to thank PSFI. Few years ago I was in El Nido, in Barangay Teneguiban at walang kuryente and in the middle of nowhere there was kuryente ang sitio na ito ay may kuryente that’s when I asked paano nagkaroon. And I heard that it was Pilipinas Shell Foundation, I was not yet mayor then. When I became a mayor I was able to meet PSFI Director Ms. Marvi Trudeau, and I requested for the micro grid. We reviewed the criteria and the PSFI team did some evaluation. Albaguen was our priority,” Alvarez said.

San Vicente provided a monetary counterpart for the SINAG project. This has hastened the request of the San Vicente LGU. They also provided technical expertise in conducting surveys and preliminary pieces of training for the AEA. San Vicente has committed to closely monitor and ensure that the microgrid will be run and maintained sustainably.

Currently, PSFI has made access to green energy available to Kalakwasan in Barangay Tanabag, Puerto Princesa; Barangay Teneguiban, El Nido; Binaluan, Liminangcong, Taytay; Decabaytot in Linapacan; Baras, Taytay; Maytigued, Taytay, and Albaguen in San Vicente

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