Jesuit University in PH pushes energy sustainability through solar technology

Aivy Rose Villarba
Jun 7 · 5 min read

Known for its greening initiatives and the Ecoteneo advocacy, the Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) is one of the pioneering academic institutions in the Philippines on energy efficiency and renewable energy through the use of solar power technology.

Dr. Randell U. Espina, the Dean of the University’s School of Engineering and Architecture, initiated the project in 2011, given the looming power crisis in Mindanao beginning 2011.

Espina stressed that it started as a research based project and has been pushed through to implementation because of the unwavering support of the University President, Fr. Joel E. Tabora, S.J.

Moreover, the solar energy generation project aimed at building the AdDU capacity especially the skills to create, develop and understand the solar energy technology.


Solar power technology

The energy generated from the solar panels complement with the base load power supply received from the Davao Light and Power Company (DLPC), the city’s power distributor.

The university currently houses 842 solar panels. AdDU sustainably generates power through the 48 panels (285 watts per panel) at Finster Hall, 394 panels (385 watts per panel) at the Community Center and 400 panels (300 watts per panel) at the Martinez Sports Complex, Matina campus.

On average, the solar-PVs can generate 285.37 kW of power or 520.00 MWh of energy per year.

The solar-PVs can be operated also on a standalone state wherein AdDU can optimally harvest electricity for its own use. However, for a standalone mode, building rewiring or an energy management system is needed.

Dr. Espina explained that the solar panels were designed as a grid-tied system, where the energy generated by the solar panels can be directly used by all energy consuming devices including lights, air conditioning units, computers, and other appliances.

Ateneo’s solar power system includes an inverter with an anti-islanding functionality. The term “anti-islanding” refers to a feature of a grid-tie inverter that shuts itself off when a power outage occurs.

The anti-islanding design, according to Espina, also served as inverter’s protection as it prevents electrical overload.


Advocacy, sustainability, and self-sufficiency

With the full implementation of the solar energy project, carbon dioxide production was reduced. By reducing dependency on the base load power distributed by DLPC, AdDU can avoid 358.57 Metric Tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

Solar-PV does not only collect and generate energy, it also saves the environment through the avoidance of the production of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

Aside from advocating for a greener society, the project also seeks to achieve energy sustainability and self-sufficiency.

Espina said the Philippines still imports sources of energy, especially coal, and he wishes one day, “we will no longer need to depend source of electricity from other countries.”


Practical investment

Some believe investing in this kind of technology is expensive but Espina said that the benefits of the solar panels outweigh the cost.

“Most people complain about the high cost of living that is why they want their salaries to be raised. But what they do not realize is that 30% to 40% of their income goes to electricity that includes the cost of actual use of electricity at home plus cost of electricity added to acquired goods and services. Unlike in other countries including Japan and the United States wherein only about 3% to 4% of their income goes to electricity due to their buying capacity,” Espina said.

Even major industries depend on electricity to function and the major cost of goods is also dependent on electricity.

Espina stressed that there is a need to explore other forms of energy, develop a kind of technology to cut the cost and later counter the energy problems.

“In order to be economically stable, we should also ensure the energy and power supply and further bring the energy self-sufficiency and sustainability into the household level,” Espina said.


Renewable energy

The power crisis is still prevalent today that is why alternative or other sources of energy should also be explored.

“We still use non-renewable sources of energy including fossil fuel and coal. These are finite sources and the reserves could diminish in 50 to 100 years. Thus, the price of the electricity would be doubled because of the increased demand and limited supply,” Espina explained.

Espina also stressed that would be better if these so-called ‘dirty technology’ could be totally changed through pushing further research for alternative forms of energy.

“We may explore and generate electricity using solar, wind, hydro, bioenergy (biomass or biogas), and through the human power,” Espina said.

As of present, we should conserve the energy and aim to achieve energy self-sufficiency.


Future plans

The university aims to have more solar power technology projects including the showcasing of the 20 to 25 KW solar tracking system, proposed installation of 180 to 200-kW solar-photovoltaic (PV) at the Finster Hall and proposed development of a solar-PV hybrid technology.

“I have been very interested in energy studies because of my education in the Australian National University. It served as an eye opener for me,” Espina said.

Espina shared, “we can do something about the energy crisis we face today. We could convert research to application.”

Espina also emphasized that there was a risk for the project to fail, but with the full support of Fr. Tabora and as part of the mission of the Ateneo, the use Solar-PV was proven possible as it was already successfully implemented in the university.

Meanwhile, to further boost the environmental awareness of the people of Davao and the neighboring provinces, Ateneo will also hold a two-hour program in one of the radio stations of the Catholic Media Network.

Catch the environmental protection and innovation discussion from 10 am to 12 noon every Monday at DXGN 89.9 Spirit FM starting on June 13.

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