Each year, an average of 20 typhoons hit the Philippines. Due to climate change, typhoons in the Philippines have become more powerful and more catastrophic than ever. In December 2021, a disastrous typhoon–Typhoon Odette–devastated the Visayas and Mindanao islands, leaving over 3 million people without electricity.
Importance of Energy
Electricity has been a significant contributor to the modernisation and growth seen in society nowadays. Because of the conveniences it brought, the demand and dependency on electricity only continue to grow.
Apart from the risk of power outages from typhoons, the Philippines is also at risk of energy insecurity. Out of 125 countries, the country ranked 61st in the 2017 World Energy Trilemma Index of the energy security category, which assesses countries based on their energy management, resiliency, and reliability.
After Typhoon Odette, 939 areas suffered power outages, with an initial estimate of 350 million pesos worth of damage, and counting. Many hospitals, banks, and other major institutions are also affected by the power loss.
Solar Panels in Typhoons
PV systems have proven to be great alternatives or backups to the electricity grid, especially in times of calamities. With technological advancements, solar panels nowadays are made to withstand strong winds and flying debris.
One experiment has even exhibited its power against hailstones hurled at over 400kph, which barely even made a scratch. The strongest typhoon–Typhoon Haiyan–only reached a speed of a little over 300 kph. Meanwhile, Typhoon Odette peaked at 195 kph.
Usually, PV systems are installed on flat surfaces, such as roofs. Hence, the stability of the solar panels depends on the durability of the surface it is mounted on. On the upside, these systems are backed up with insurance in case of inevitable damage.
Several typhoon-ravaged communities decided to utilise renewable energy, specifically solar, to fight against recurring power outages. Not only have these projects proven the usefulness of PV systems in emergencies, but have also become a catalyst for the National Renewable Energy Program–the plan to increase the renewable energy share in power generation in the Philippines.
In the Bicol region, several communities, which are frequented by typhoons, often experience power outages. A leading telecommunications company sourced a solar-powered system of generators and batteries. This system can generate and store enough energy to power 30 5W LED bulbs for eight hours each day.
With this system, responders can readily recharge their devices, including flashlights and radios. At the same time, they are also usable even outside the typhoon season. Furthermore, the communities can find that these are much cheaper, removing fuel.
In 2013, the destructive Typhoon Haiyan hit a town in Eastern Visayas, such that the people of Marabut fled and took refuge in Tinabanan Cave. To help prepare for future disasters, a nonprofit organisation introduced TekPak, a solar-powered generator.
Following the 2013 supertyphoon, the community has found the TekPaks convenient in their evacuations. Not only has it lit up the cave, but it has also powered up communication and medical devices, such as nebulisers.
A small barangay in Northern Samar is another victim of power outages due to typhoons, which could last up to a month. Additionally, the community struggles to have access to clean, drinkable water.
Upon finding damaged solar panels, the barangay’s kapitan decided to repair and utilise them. With the help of the working PV system, the barangay was able to power up a water pump and supply the community with clean water.
From the success of these projects, other cities and municipalities could follow suit and work with renewable energy companies, like Solenergy Systems Inc. With years of experience, these companies could provide their expert opinions and services to better prepare for future typhoons.