Smart boosts resilience of typhoon-prone areas with solar power

Published April 13, 2021, 12:23 PM

by Len Amadora

PLDT’s wireless unit Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) has installed solar-powered generators in communities in the Bicol region that often find themselves in the path of severe weather disturbances.

Among the recipients of the project are:     
Labo, Camarines Norte      
Garchitorena, Camarines Sur      
Siruma, Camarines Sur      
Cabusao, Camarines Sur      
Brgy. Misibis, Tiwi, Albay      
Cawayan High School, Manito, Albay      
Brgy. Buyo, Virac, Catanduanes      
Brgy. Tubaon, Virac, Catanduanes      
Pilar, Sorsogon      
Sorsogon City – City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (CDRRMO)   

Smart tapped affiliate company Meralco’s renewable energy arm, Spectrum, to deploy solar-powered generators with a capacity of 550Wp in these locations complemented by batteries that have a total capacity of 1.2kWh. The system can light up 30 5-watt LED lamps for eight hours daily, or power as many as eight desk fans.    

“This initiative highlights our core value of ‘malasakit’ and commitment to help provide the needs of communities where we serve. We aim to be one of the pillars that support our fellow Filipinos especially in times of disaster,” said Alex Caeg, Senior Vice-President & Head of Consumer Sales Group at PLDT and Smart.   
Having a solar powered system also means that LGUs and disaster response teams can charge communication devices such as two-way radios, flashlights, and other rescue devices even if there are widespread power outages in their areas.    
“Over the years, we have seen the importance of alternative power sources in times of disaster. This project is a long-term solution that aims to boost the resilience of these communities in the face of natural calamities and the resulting power supply interruptions,” said John Palanca, Smart First Vice-President and Regional Head of Consumer Sales Group. The project also complements Smart’s ‘Libreng Tawag’ (free calls) stations that the company often deploys in heavily impacted areas.    
But some areas aren’t waiting for typhoon season to put the system to good use. In the town of Pilar, Sorsogon, the generators are being used in the municipality’s vaccination drive. “We are using the system to power up laptops and other devices of our rural health workers who are currently running vaccination efforts in our facility,” added Arnol Lista, who is the town’s Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Officer.
“This is helpful in disaster response. During typhoons, we need to constantly communicate with affected communities so we can assess the situation and find out what the challenges are in getting to these areas before deploying responders,” said Luisito Mendoza, OIC of Sorsogon City’s Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office.   
Both officials agree that going green is also practical.    
“The system saves us money because we no longer have to spend on gasoline or diesel to power our generators,” said Mendoza.   
“Before, we used to rely on generators that run on fossil fuel and they could be costly. But now, we can harness the sun to provide us with electricity,” explained Lista.   
Last year, Typhoons Quinta, Rolly and Ulysses battered the Bicol region sending more than 50,000 families to evacuation centers after leaving a trail of destruction. The tropical cyclones amounted to some three billion pesos worth of damage across the region. At one point, Catanduanes was cut off from the rest of the country after Super Typhoon Rolly downed vital telecommunication installations.   
All these efforts are in line with the commitment of Smart and its parent firm, PLDT, to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), particularly the 9th UN SDG on Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, through building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and fostering innovation.