Solar energy: The best energy option for the Turtle Islands

Story and photos by Beau Baconguis

One of our main tasks in the trip to the Turtle Islands was to replace a damaged unit of a Solar TekPak that iCSC donated a year earlier to Baguan Island for the use of the wardens.

The Turtle Islands is almost 100% dependent on diesel or gasoline-fueled generators for their energy needs. Each household spends an average of 200 to 300 pesos per night. In a month, that is PHP 6000.00 to 9000.00 and for locals a staggering PHP 72,000.00 to 108,000.00 per year. For a fifth class municipality of mostly fishers, that’s a lot of money allotted to energy alone.

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In Taganak Island, there was 1 household with 1 solar panel and a few solar gadgets here and there. In Lihiman Island, there was one small solar panel for use by the lone warden.

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The iCSC TekPak in Baguan was pulled out and replaced with smaller solar gadgets. Based on the conversations with our NGO partner, the wardens in Baguan, and the Mayor’s wife, use of the Solar TekPak would be maximized in Taganak to provide energy to the community’s day care center while in Baguan, they needed smaller mobile solar gadgets for charging phones and radios.

When we saw the day care center, the tiny concrete box of a classroom was packed with 100 children with hardly any room to move one’s elbows. Some kids had mothers inside fanning their children which added to the congestion and the heat. Children would certainly struggle to learn in such an environment. They needed electricity to power some fans. So in the end, we decided this was the best place for the Solar TekPak.

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Because the Islands are so far away, off-grid systems such as solar are the best energy options for them. Investment support is necessary as well as community capacity to set up, operate, maintain and fix such systems should be built in. Imagine how much savings that would become for households and perhaps, the savings reallocated for better, more nutritious food initiatives, sanitation, education and other social services.
Beau Baconguis is a board member of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities.