Figure 1. Integrated Power System

Figure 2. Conventional Power Generation Systems

Figure 3. Renewable Resources - Power Generation

Monday July 22, 2002
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In Search of Alternative Energy Sources for Romblon
Pat F. Fetizanan

Introduction:

Let there be light and there was light.  That was in the beginning of the world.   Nowadays, flipping a switch does not guarantee there would be light.   The operating problems, spiraling costs and pollutants generated by conventional electrical power stations are forcing the re-examination of producing power.  Conventional electrical generation uses limited fuel resources producing tons of exhaust gases harming the environment.   

The electrification of Romblon province presents a unique challenge.   With many small islands, a single common power grid is obviously out of the question.   A number of the barangays in these islands are just beginning to enjoy the wonders of electricity.  Power demand per house is usually tiny but essential.  People who generations ago would not mind using coconut oil for their lampara, will now howl in protest if the night power does not come on.  In areas with power, the main problem is that electrical supply has not been able to keep up with growing demand

In the world today, there is unprecedented interest in obtaining electricity from renewable sources particularly solar, wind and biomass.   The sun, wind, rivers, waves, and tides and biomass are all abundant and ongoing.   Of these, only water flow, (hydroelectric power), has been tapped commercially.  The others however are being developed and applied commercially at a very fast pace.   This paper will explore these new developing technologies and assess their applicability to Romblon. 

Conventional Power Generation:  A Review

Commercially available power in the Philippines is produced by electric generators or gensets.    Gensets derive power from different types of drivers  using various fuels.    A brief survey of conventional power generation follows:

  • Fossil Fuels –  Romblon power is currently generated using this fuel which include petroleum products such as diesel, gasoline and fuel oil.  Burned directly in a combustion engine, they produce gases harmful to the environment.   Fossil fuels, while still plentiful, are limited.   The Philippines does not have large deposits of oil and the costs will continue to increase.
  • Natural Gas – Commercially available natural gas comes from underground deposits.   This could be burned directly in special engines.  The traditional method is to burn gas generating high-pressure steam.  The steam then powers a turbine that is coupled to a generator.   Natural gas produces relatively clean exhaust gas.  The recent discovery of natural gas deposits in the Philippines makes this a practical method in some parts of the country.
  • Solid Fuels –  Coal and wood are examples of solids fuel.  These are used in specially designed boilers to produce high-pressure steam.   Steam again drives turbine/generator unit.  Coal is abundant in many parts of the world and used extensively in both developing and developed countries.  However, the exhaust gas contains sulfur and other pollutants.   Cleaning up the gas entails significant costs.
  • Nuclear Power - Nuclear energy has been used in power generation for decades.  The heat of reaction is converted into steam driving a turbine/generator unit.  Although it does not normally produce gaseous pollutants, it produces solid radioactive waste that needs to be disposed.  There is also the safety concern due to potential escape of radioactive gases that could have devastating effect on the community.  Existing nuclear units continue to operate worldwide.  Primarily due to safety concerns, new installations are mostly on hold.
  • Hydroelectric – Water at high pressure and volume turns a turbine that powers the generator.   This is also one of the oldest means of power generation especially in the West.   Giant hydroelectric units such as Hoover dam in the US and the Three Gorges River in China attest to the importance of this method.   Power produced is inexpensive and is environmentally clean.
  • Geothermal - High-pressure steam from underground is piped and used to drive a turbine/generator unit.    This method is clean but application is limited where sufficient steam is available.

 

Non-Conventional Power Generation – New Developments:

 Due to the increasing fuels costs and environmental concerns, various technologies have been gaining foothold lately.   Some of these technologies have been used in other parts of the world for centuries but are relatively new to the Philippines.  These are discussed in more detail in the following sections:

  • Solar Energy- Solar energy is used in a variety of ways to generate power.  The best known of these processes is the Photovoltaic cell or PV that utilizes sunlight to directly produce electricity.  It is a proven technology, has low operating cost, no moving parts, and no pollution.  However, its first capital investment is high.

  • Watts from Manure/Wastes - This is one of the fastest growing alternatives in the Philippines today.  Manure from cows, pigs, chickens and other livestock is converted into methane “natural” gas.   The gas is burned in an engine that drives a generator.

  •  Renewable Solids fuels – Technologies developed in Japan and Europe allow the burning of any combustible materials to produce steam, to power a turbine/generator unit.   Solids include wood, cocoshells, rice husks and peanut shells.  The technology is still in developmental stage.  Although the fuel is relatively free, the capital costs are high.

  • Watts from Wind – Harnessing the power of the wind is as old as the Industrial revolution. Windmills have been used in Europe and the USA for a long long time.  Lately, windmills are being marketed by various companies worldwide including in the Philippines.   The obvious limitation is power generation is at the mercy of the wind.

  • Watts from Water – Just like wind turbines, the use of water to produce electricity is not new.  What is new is its application to smaller scale power units.   Several companies now market small units for villages.

These non-conventional power generation systems are discussed in more detail below:

SOLAR ENERGY

Romance With the Sun

My personal romance with the sun started about 12 years ago when I brought home 3 panels in my check-in luggage from Houston, Texas.  At the airport, I had to convince an interrogating officer that the “mysterious” boards I was bringing into the country were harmless.   Set at my parents’ home, these panels provided uninterrupted power for lights, TV, VCR and a radio.  Picture this as it actually happened:  A man is slowly walking on the beach with a video camera in hand.   Closely following him is his nephew carrying a 2 ft x 3 ft flat board with his back against the morning sun.  The board is the newly arrived solar panel providing power for the video camera.   The original solar cells continue to grab power from the sun.   It also now powers a telephone, providing a window to the world for the man’s old mother.

Basic Solar Generation is Simple

Photovoltaic modules, also known as PV or solar cells directly convert sunlight into electricity.  Solar cells have no moving parts to wear out.   Two separate semiconductor layers, one positively charged, the other negatively charged are sandwiched to produce the electrical field. Electricity is generated as the sunrays pass through these layers.   Electrical contacts attached to the cell connect the electron flow to electrical circuit.  PV modules come in different sizes and efficiency.  Most popular sizes are in the range of 20 to 100 watts. 




The idea of lighting our nights with the sun is not new.  PV’s were developed for use in NASA’s space projects and have been in use for decades.   They currently power calculators, watches, spaceships, satellites, lighthouses and traffic lights.   PV based systems are used by the most advanced countries to the poorest and remotest villages on earth.   It is very flexible.  Solar systems can be designed to service anywhere from a single home to power a few light bulbs or provide electricity to large towns and cities.  To limit the initial cost, the system can be built starting with as little as one solar panel and gradually adding panels and capacity over the years to power a whole community.  The PV modules have lifetimes of over 25 years.

There are two issues with solar energy.  First, the power produced is typically 12 volts direct current (DC) used in lights and small appliances. The direct current needs to be converted into alternating current (AC) for general use.  The second issue is solar power is interrupted by night and cloud cover. The sun is not there when it is needed most to light up homes at night.  Electricity generated during the day is therefore stored in batteries for use when needed.  Both the power conversion and storage, while not complex, add some costs to the system.

POWER FROM THE WIND

Humans have been harnessing the wind ever since farmers in ancient Persia discovered how to use it to pump water. Nowadays the windmill is used to produce electricity.  The principle is simple.  The blades on a wind turbine are similar to the propeller blades on an airplane.  The passing wind turns the rotor blades which turn a generator that creates electricity.

The electricity produced by the windmill is direct current similar to solar cells.   The electricity can then be stored in batteries for use when the wind stops or converted to ac current type for general use.

 The wind turbine is now becoming more popular in the Philippines with several manufacturers offering small scale wind generation systems.  These are perfect complement to photovoltaic systems.   Such systems generally do not require much operator attention.  However, there are many moving parts that need periodic maintenance.  It does not have foul smelling exhaust gases and wind is certainly free.  With  “habagat’ and “amihan” providing wind resource between June and December of each year, the wind turbine is a serious energy alternative particularly when coupled with solar cells.

MANURE AND OTHER WASTES  - BIOMASS

One of the fastest growing alternative energy resources in the Philippines is “biomass”.    Biomass is chemical energy stored in plant and animal matter.   Energy is locked up in the biomass for use as fuel.   Biomass includes manure, wood and wood products, coal, cocoshells, rice hulls and practically everything that burns.   Methane, also known as biogas and natural gas, is produced by digestion of manure from piggery,  poultry, cows and  other livestock.  The gas is then burned in an engine that drives a genset.

Methane can be produced by a variety of organic wastes.  Some landfills  (garbage dump) in the USA have been generating electricity for years.  The biogas (methane) displaces as much as 80% of the diesel in a conventional engine.  Diesel is still required to supplement the fuel mix in a conventional engine. The overall operating cost is drastically reduced.  However, because of the methane digester, capital costs will be moderately higher.  In places were there is abundant and sustainable supply of manure, this technology is very attractive.

This technology has two important benefits:  Besides attractive operating costs, it solves disposal problems of manure and other wastes.  About 15 cows would be required to meet basic power needs of a single family in the rural area.  

COCO SHELLS  AND OTHER COMBUSTIBLES

The technology to generate power using cocoshells and other combustible materials, while not new, is relatively complex.   The solids are first fed to a boiler that produces very high steam pressure.  The process is similar to preparing food in a pressure cooker in an open fire.  The high pressure steam turns the wheels of a steam turbine/generator unit creating electricity.  Its exhaust is the same quality as the smoke in an open fire.

Before checking the coconut shells in your plantation to see if you have enough to power a generator, there are a couple of issues you need to know.  The process is complex with several equipment items in the package.   A typical unit would include pumps, special designed boiler and automatic solids feeder, cooling water system, water treatment units, the turbine and generator.  It requires a high degree of instrumentation.  Because of its numerous equipment and moving parts, maintenance is expected to be very high. This system is economic in large sized units.

ECONOMICS OF NON-CONVENTIONAL POWER GENERATION

If Solar energy is so wonderful, why is the whole world not powered by the sun?  The answer to this is the much higher initial capital cost of solar cells.  About ten years ago, the cost of solar based systems was as high as 20 times that of a typical diesel powered generating unit.   Advancement in technology and the wider use of solar based systems have brought down the cost considerably.  Its initial cost is now in the range of 5 to 10 times that of the diesel powered unit.  Today, solar cells are much more efficient.   The trend towards lower capital cost will definitely continue in the future. 

Here is a typical economic comparison based on  5 KW unit:

Capital Cost, Pesos

Operating Cost, Pesos/Month

Operating Cost,

Pesos in 20 Years

Diesel Fuel Generator

400,000

20,000

5,000,000

Solar Based Unit

6,000,000

1000

240,000

Methane,  Biogas

2,000,000

4000

1,000,000

Wind Based Unit

3,000,000

4000

1,000,000

Solids Fuel Unit

5,000,000

4000

1,000,000

 

As the above figures show, at present condition, the capital requirements for the solar based unit are significantly higher.  However, its costs to maintain and operate are much lower. Over the long term, the solar based system is more economically.

BARANGAY MAINIT PLAN –AN INTEGRATED SYSTEM

A plan to meet the power needs of the residents of Mainit, Banton, Romblon is being developed.

A private initiative project, it will be installed in phases to reduce the first capital outlay.   The plan is summarized below:

Phase 1 - Install a system rated for approximately 1 KW using PV modules.     The unit will include a bank of batteries and inverter.   In the summer, this will supply the power needs of five to ten houses for up to 4 hours.  This phase will include provisions for the residents to charge 12 v dc batteries for miscellaneous users.

Phase 2 - Add 3 KW solar-based system bringing the total capacity to 4 KW.   Make this as the primary community power supplier during the summer.   Supplement the power coming from the existing diesel powered unit. By this time, it is expected that the power line from the municipality will reach the barangay and provide electricity a few hours per day.

Phase 3. – Add 1 KW power generator using a Wind turbine for use during the months when the wind is blowing.  This will bring the total generating unit to 5 KW probably enough to meet most of the immediate needs of the community.  During the summer months, the system may be able to generate more power than what can be consumed.  The project will therefore be configured to be able to sell “excess” power to the municipal power grid.

The operating cost is estimated to be minimal compared to that of a diesel-based system since it will not use any fuel.   Maintenance costs will include periodic replacements of the batteries once every 5 to 7 years.


CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The overall conclusion is there are non-conventional energy resources available for Romblon.   While most near term power is expected to be generated with existing conventional systems (diesel fuels, fuel oils), solar modules, methane generation and wind turbines should be given careful consideration in the future.

  1. Solar based power generators should be given careful consideration in the expansion of existing electric units in Romblon.   Solar modules would be an attractive complement to existing gensets.    The solar based system will be the primary power source with gensets to operate during extended periods when the sun is not shining.  While the initial capital cost is much higher than a fossil fuel unit, it offers the following significant advantages.
    • Low operating cost – It does not use any fuel.  It has no moving parts and therefore  maintenance is very low.  
    • Long life (over 25 years) with very little maintenance
    • Clean – does not produce water or air pollution.
    • Flexible – it can be developed in phases from using one module to meet the power needs of a single home to that of a whole community.
    • Solar based power units are very competitive in remote areas.  

           

  1. Wind Turbines -  In some parts of  Romblon, wind is sufficiently strong and consistent to allow power generation over 8 months of the year.     Turbine should be considered in these places as complements to existing gensets.  
  2. Methane Fuel -  Generation of methane from manure and using the fuel to power a generator is moving very fast in other parts of the country.   This could be a very attractive option for Romblon if sufficient supply of manure is available.   
  3. Cocoshells,  Rice hulls, other Combustibles – The technology for using these fuels exists but it is very complex,  entails a significant capital cost and requires high maintenance.   


TABLE 1

COMPONENT DESCRIPTION

   SOLAR BASED SYSTEM

1.          Solar Modules ( Solar Cells)  - 20 to 120 watts, converts sunlight to 12 v dc

2.          Powercenter Enclosure – Enclosure to include the following instruments:

·         monitor battery state of charge
·         current limiting fuse
·         automatic generator/startup
·        
charge controllers

3.    Inverter -   2000 t0 5500 watts,  converts 12 v dc to 240 v ac and

4.       Battery Bank- 12, 24 or 48 volts,  deep cycles, stores dc power from solar cells

5.       Electric Meter –Determines how much is the monthly bill

 

6.       ElectricDiesel/Gasoline Generator – 240 volts ac when solar and wind energy are not available

7.       Wind Generator -  Generates 12 v dc

8.       Public Utility System – Supplies 240 v ac to the community.

TABLE 2

ESTIMATING POWER LOAD

Case 1- URBAN CONSUMERS

 (note 2)

Case 2- RURAL CONSUMERS        (note 3)

Watt Rating (note 1)

Hours Used/Day (note 4)

Watt Hours/Day

Hours Used/Day (note4)

Watt Hours/Day

Lights

     Fluorescents,

20

4 x8

640

1x5

100

     Fluorescents, 

40

1x5

200

0

0

     Incandescent

100

2

200

0

0

Computers

0

0

     Laptop

35

2

70

0

0

     PC

100

2

200

0

0

     Printer

100

0.5

50

0

0

TV

0

0

     25” Colored

120

5

600

0

0

     19” Colored

70

0

0

3

210

     12” B& W

40

0

0

0

0

VCR

30

3

90

1

30

Stereo

20

2

40

0

0

Radio

5

3

15

5

25

Refrigerators

0

0

     20 cft

540

12

6480

0

0

     12 cft

300

0

0

1

300

Microwave

1300

.5

650

0

0

Iron

1000

1

1000

0

0

Ceiling Fan

100

5

500

0

0

Clothes Dryer

4500

0

0

0

0

Washing Machine

375

2

750

0

0

Total, watthours

11485

665

Kilowatthour ( see note 5)

11.5

0.67

Notes:

1.          The watt rating shown here are typical. This varies significantly from manufacturer to manufacturer of appliances.

2.          Case 1 represents the typical residential consumers in cities and big towns  like Manila.

3.          Case 2 represents a typical residential consumer in far flung barangays like Mainit in Banton, Rombon.

4.          The number of hours of appliance usage varies significantly from user to user and the availability of electric power

5.          This figure, kilowatthours (KWH),  determines how much is the consumers’ bill.  It is also used as a basis for the design of new electrical power generating systems.



TABLE 3

DISTIRIBUTORS OF POWER GENERATING SYSTEMS

( Solar Cells, Wind Turbines,  Water Turbines)

PHILIPPINES

Maschinen & Technik, Inc.
Alabang, Muntinglupa City, Philippines
Phone: (63) 2 850-6450
Contact: Oly Serafica

Synergy Power Philippines
349 Sen. Gil Puyat Ave.,
Makati, City Philippines
Phone: (63)2-890-5681

Edward Marcs Philippines Inc.
Manila, Philippines
Phone:
Contact:  Ricky Cordova

AFA electro Industrial Systems Inc.
38 Scout Borromeo, Diliman, Quezon City
Philippines  1103
Phone:  (63) 2 963-616

Alternative Energy Systems (AES) Development
Rm 620, Sarmiento II Bldg, Pasong Tamo Ext.
Makati, Philippines
Phone: (63) 2 816-7279
Fax: (63) 2 816-7279

Base Corporation
700 Lerma St, Mandaluyong, Philippines
Phone:  (63) 2 721-6747

 BP Solar Philippines
Suite 76, Zeta Bldg., 191 Salcedo St.,
Makati, Philippines 1200
Phone:  (63) 2 815-9036/7

 Floro International Corp.
ABC Bldg., 2551 Pasong Tamo
Makati, Philippines 3117
Phone: (63) 2 482-894
Fax: (63) 2 407-261

Yupangco Electronics Corp.
539 Sen. Gil Puyat  Ave.
Makati,
Philippines
Phone: (63) 2 819-7551

  



TABLE 4

SOLAR APPLICATIONS - HIGHLIGHTS

Below is a collection of developments and application of solar based power systems in the Philippines.

·         BP announced a $48 million deal with the Philippine government to bring solar power to 150 villages in Mindanao.   First phase will center on 35 Agrarian Reform Communities (ARC)  followed by 44 ARC’s.   This project was scheduled to begin in late 2001.

·         Over 30,000 solar home systems have been installed in the Philippines.  There are about 5 million rural households with no access to electricity.

·         RCPI and PTT have used PV-based power systems in their telecommunications infrastructure.

·         Most PV modules are currently manufactured abroad and brought to the Philippines.  A number of local companies are now looking at manufacturing solar components such as the modules, charge controllers and batteries.  This will reduce the overall systems costs.

·         An Australian Aid project seeks to bring BP Solar Australia together with the DOI and local government to help  in the MSIP (Municipal Solar Infrastructure Project).  Initially budgeted at $40 MM ,  the plan will install PV-based systems to power hospitals, rural centers, communal water systems, schools and community centers.

·         The Philippine Coastguard is moving aggressively to increase the number of PV powered lighthouses.  Lighthouses are typically use 50 watt panels.

·         The National Power Corporation, Renewable Energy Division, is considering the installation of PV-based systems in islands like Mindoro and Palawan.  NPC proposes  private developments under BOO (Build, Operate and Own) scheme.

·         Shell Renewable Philippines Corporation is introducing Integrated Renewable Energy Services (IRES) known as the Sunstation Model for electrification of barangays in Aklan.



TABLE 5

POWER GENERATION TECHNOLOGIES – SUMMARY

Power Generating Technology

Status

US and World Use

Romblon Use

Fuel Required ?

Current

Potential

Nuclear

Commercialized

X

Yes

Fossil fuels, crude, diesel

Commercialized

X

X

Yes

Natural gas,biogas

Commercialized

X

Yes

Geothermal

Commercialized

X

No

Solids fuel:

     Coal

Commercialized

X

Yes

      Wood   

Commercialized

X

X

Yes

      Cocoshells, rice   

       Hulls, etc     

Commercialized

X

Yes

Hydroelectric

Commercialized

X

No

Solar  Based

Commercialized

X

X

No

Wind Based

Commercialized

X

X

No

Fuel Cells ( Hydrogen)

Developmental

Yes

Tide

Developmental

No

About the Author:

Pat Fetizanan became part of the "brain drain" in the early 1970s when he left for the USA after graduating college in Manila. From his residence in Houston, Texas where he helps design and build chemical pants for Fluor Inc., the author dreams of reversing the process by coming home more often and bringing with him ideas and technical expertise to help improve the electrical power situation in his hometown. In his parents' home in Banton, Romblon, is a functioning solar system he installed long ago, before this alternative energy source has become popular. This paper was presented at the SANROKAN 2002 Convention at Romblon, Philippines last April 29 -May 3, 2002.