The Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU), through the Center for Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technology (CREATE) of the School of Engineering and Architecture (SEA), has finally retrieved all the solar charging facilities deployed in a total of twenty-four (24) communities and institutions in the provinces of Compostela Valley (ComVal) and Davao Oriental (DavOr), areas that were heavily ravaged by Tropical Storm (TS) Pablo in December of 2012. These solar facilities were primarily used for charging mobiles phones necessary for communications, electronic devices such as desktops and laptops, lamps, emergency lights, flashlights, as well as providing light to small and well-contained areas.

Areas of Deployment

These solar panels were deployed in the following identified communities and institutions covering the two provinces, to wit: Maryknoll School of Manay, St. Mary’s Academy of Caraga, St. Mary’s College of Baganga, Sacred Heart Parish of Brgy. Lambajon, and the Maryknoll Academy of Cateel; Assumption Academy of Monkayo and Assumption Academy of Compostela; Brgy. Awao in Monkayo and the Grandstand in New Bataan in ComVal; Magsaysay Elementary School and Andap National High School in New Bataan; Compostela Municipality Gym, Andap Brgy. Hall, San Miguel Brgy. Hall in ComVal, Poblacion Monkayo Brgy. Hall, Poblacion Monkayo Gymnasium, Brgy. Casoon community in Monkayo, Panag Barangay Hall in New Bataan and Purok 2 Cabinuangan Evacuation Center in New Bataan; and, San Isidro Brgy. Hall, Babag Brgy. Hall, Tubo-Tubo Brgy. Hall, Mamonga Brgy. Hall, and Ngan Brgy. Hall, all in Monkayo.

The solar facilities were used in these areas for a period of one month, three months, to four months, and were endorsed to heads of schools, parishes, people’s organizations (POs), and local government units (LGUs) who acted as property custodians for the whole duration of the deployment.

Research in Renewable Energy vis-à-vis Disaster Management

In the aftermath of TS Pablo, the CREATE team of Engr. Nelson Enano and Dr. Randell Espina proposed a study that attempts to complement research on the use of renewal energy with a striking community engagement component, using the backdrop of disaster management and mitigation as context. The study is being funded by the university through the University Research Council (URC), and implemented in close coordination with the University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council (UCEAC).  In CREATE’s research, it proposed that solar panels be deployed in disaster-stricken communities inorder to assess their viability in providing electricity in the aftermath of TS Pablo. Given that the extent of the damage (both on life and on property) brought about by TS Pablo was so massive when it hit the eastern and southeastern part of Mindanao, knocking down major power lines in most areas in ComVal and DavOr, the research also intended to identify the contextual factors that will be considered in the deployment of these solar panels. In this manner, the output of the research would then contribute toward decision-making processes and policy formulation as regard effectively infusing renewable energy with disaster management, particularly when marginalized communities are involved in such a large-scale natural disaster. It is further hoped that this experiment in the use of renewal energy–in this instance the use of solar panelswill pave the way toward institutionalizing mechanisms for disaster risk reduction and management in every LGUs.

Initial Data Gathering

The initial data gathered by the research looked at the areas where the use of solar panels could be properly and appropriately optimized. It recorded many limitations, of course, in the sense that these solar panels can only serve light-powered devices with smaller wattages (considering the size of the panels being installed), that these are dependent on good weather, and that at times these charge intermittently and even suffer from fluctuations. But the primary consideration perhaps is the cost of acquiring and installing the solar panels at any given time, plus the fact that these also demand highly technical expertise, not to mention other recognized socio-technical factors that go with maintaining these facilities.

But the other notable observation in utilizing this particular source of renewal energyas reflected in the initial impact analysis of the studyis that it serves an important purpose in risk management since the source of energy extracted, which is solar energy, is readily available once installed. One important good thing that can be highlighted in the deployment of these solar charging facilities by the university is that it provided free access to electricity, especially to marginalized areas, unlike operators of gensets which charged a fee for every charging service.

Another significant factor to consider in deploying this kind of renewable energy source is that it is environment-friendly, and can be made to serve optimally as an alternative access to power and light, and eventually communication, considering that the full resumption of electricity in these communities is still a long way off.

Challenge of Renewal Energy to Policy Formulation

It could with reason be said that the use of this technology, though not altogether new, is one crucial challenge that must be met with equal degree of interest among governments because it is one avenue toward promoting environmentally-sound policy formulation, especially in the management of non-renewable resources, policies on environmental protection and preservation, and disaster preparedness and mitigation. The research done by Engr. Enano and Dr. Espina is one important benchmark for future academic researches in promoting renewal energy (solar and wind, among others) especially when it is strategically positioned to provide access to basic utilities such as power and communication–considered as two of the most important elements of disaster management and mitigation.

The four-month deployment of the solar charging facilities proved beneficial to the above-mentioned communities and institutions, and with their final retrieval this April, the research is expected to wrap up its results soon for dissemination to the academic community. (By M. Isabel S. Actub of Arrupe Communications & Advocacy, for URC and CREATE)