The government goes beyond hazards maps as the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) ventures out to far-reaching applications of its Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology as it maps out possible renewable energy resources through the PhiLiDAR project.
The PhiLiDAR project is actually an expansion project of the Disaster Risks Exposure and Assessment for Mitigation program which originally aims to produce 3D flood and hazard maps for the 18 major river systems of the country.
With the vast potential of its generated information resources, several applications, including the identification of mining resources and renewable energy, were lined up in the top list for exploration.
Nilo Peña of the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development of DOST, speaking on renewable energy during the recent Asia and Pacific Centre for Transfer of Technology (APCTT) conference at the Marco Polo Hotel in Davao City, revealed that the science department is engaging on two resource-mapping projects on solar and wind energy for the whole country.
The APCTT conference titled “Southeast Asia Regional Training Programme on Renewable Energy Resource Assessment and Mapping” is a collaboration among the United Nations Economic and Social Commission in Asia and the Pacific, International Renewable Energy Agency, DOST’s Technology Application and Promotion Institute and DOST Regional Office.
The objective of the projects is to determine the feasibility of establishing solar and wind farms in select areas of the country based on the data and information obtained through LiDAR technology.
This will work along with other cutting-edge Synthetic Aperture Radar and Interferometric Aperture Radar technologies that generate 2D and 3D images on the surface elevation and other geodetic deformation for mapping purposes with a resolution of one meter horizontal resolution.
Aside from these technologies, DOST-PCIEERD will use data coming from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astrnomical Services Administration synoptic and agromet stations and the Advanced Science and Technology Institute’s sensors through the DOST’s weather observation network.
The agromet stations measure empirical data such as wind speed and direction, rainfall amount, intensity, pressure, relative humidity, temperature, solar radiation, sunshine duration, soil temperature, and soil moisture.
Through these data, DOST will determine possible source areas for the said renewable energies.
Peña says that Philippines has the highest installed wind power generation in the ASEAN region. With an estimated wind power potential of 76,000 megawatts, it is expected to triple in 15 years. Wind farms are already installed in Ilocos Norte, Rizal, and in some parts of the country while solar farms are present in provinces of Cagayan De Oro, Negros Occidental, and in Pampanga – the largest-- with 150 megawatts of power.
Growth slack in solar energy
However, the slow growth of solar energy in the country is blamed on the high cost of solar generation system. According to Peña, DOST’s research and development on high efficiency but low cost solar cells have not come into fruition.
Furthermore, the low feed-in tariff which the government requires power companies to purchase solar powers at P9.68 is still low compared with the P17.95 proposed by the National Renewable Energy Board.
Solar power, however, is more attractive to some off-grid areas in the country where households are still unreached by local power distributors. Yet even with patchy users in some islands of the country, the generation of solar energy is only estimated at 0.01 percent. Combined with the wind energy produced by the iconic Bangui wind turbines, the Philippines only produced 0.02 percent in 2012.
However, the Philippines may not be on the losing side, as the country is the first among the ASEAN economies to establish policies on renewable energy through Republic Act 9513 of 2008 which was enacted to hasten the country’s exploration and development of renewable energy. Other countries in the ASEAN region have yet to formulate their own policies on renewable energy.
For this reason, DOST is helping out private players in the renewable energy generation and the government in identifying the efficient areas for the four renewable energy sources: hydropower, solar, wind, and biomass.