This blog is maintained by William Hong. He is a PhD candidate at Tokyo Institute of Technology in the International Development Engineering Department.
The projects and activities of ruralenergy.org serves as an integral part of applying and developing his research in pursuing sustainable development of communities. The blogs below showcase the works, trips, and experiences gained in his journey with ruralenergy.org.
 

Communicate with William and the Project: william.hong@ruralenergy.org

 


 

APVIA Singapore La!

posted Nov 5, 2012, 10:46 PM by William Hong

(2012 - October 24)

Blogger: William
Journey: Singapore Marina Bay Sands

Today we finished presenting in a conference hosted by the Asian Photovoltaic Industry Association (APVIA): http://www.apvia.org. It was held in the Marina Bay Sands and Expo - Singapore; an amazing structure as modern as solar PV can be described. This particular session may hold more fruits from the sands than we can expect.

During the conference I got to meet some key individuals that did valiant efforts for the rural electrification scenario. Mr. Islam Sharif of IDCOL Bangladesh and Peter Adelmann of Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) were quite inspiring leaders in this field of specialization. I look forward to connecting with them in pursuit of innovative programs and business models that can spread SHS to rural communities in the Philippines and the world. My doubts of ever commercializing an RE business vanished as I saw several success stories. The road to success, however, needs to be pursued with more vigour!

This particular conference holds a special place in my heart. It was the first time my dad ever attended a conference with me. Our adventures around town all the way up to the conference were just priceless. This session gave me great confidence to pursue growing and developing ruralenergy.org into an organization that can truly transform and improve lives of people. More power la!

William Hong


Here is the abstract of our presentation.

Title: A holistic multi-tiered approach to off-grid energy provision using solar PV

Authors: Hong, G.W and Abe, N. - International Development Engineering Department, Tokyo Institute of Technology

Renewable energy systems (RES), especially solar PV, are being diffused to rural communities to improve energy access. The sustainability of these systems is, however, becoming increasingly relevant. Two issues are important to consider in providing these RES for rural communities: (1) appropriateness of the technology and (2) the diverse capacity (and needs) of users within the community to sustain the systems. In this paper, these issues were addressed using a holistic multi-tiered approach in energy provision using solar PV. The recommendations were based on actual solar PV cases from the Philippines.

For rural communities with diverse mix of users, a holistic multi-tiered approach in energy provision is recommended. A multi-tiered approach pertains to the use of different types of systems that cater appropriately to the different types of users with varying levels of available resources, capacities, and willingness to sustain a system. Two case investigations were conducted in rural islands in the Philippines. In the cases investigated, a community can be divided into three meaningful tiers: (a) upper tier, to have a more capital intensive sub-centralized PV system; (b) middle tier, to have a more affordable system such as an SHS; and (c) lower tier, to have the least costly option of rechargeable solar LED lamps.

Considering different tiers (levels) of users lessens the variability of the necessary conditions required to sustain the systems provided. A holistic multi-tiered approach may, thus, facilitate both the appropriateness and the sustainability of the systems adopted for the community.

 

Takeda Workshop

posted Nov 5, 2012, 10:40 PM by William Hong

(2012 - October 18)

Blogger: William
Journey: Japan, Takeda Workshop

Just 2 weeks after graduation, I was back in Japan again. I was invited by Prof.Abe to present our Lamps for Rent project to a workshop sponsored by the Takeda Foundation, entitled: International Symposium on Ecosystems for Regional Innovation in Asia (http://www.takeda-foundation.jp/en2/asia/sy04_posters.html

In this session, we were able to share our ruralenergy.org works with a panel of professors, industry experts, and organizational leaders from different countries – Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, USA, and more. The main topics revolved on how to inspire more regional innovation in the neighboring countries of Asia – through flexible collaboration. In this session I learned quite interesting thoughts: A) The RES industry is very competitive and unlike the BPO and IT business – RES requires huge capital investments. Therefore, it is advisable to learn and affiliate with big companies first before flying off on your own. B) Commercial is defined as a business without governmental subsidy. Given that, RE is still non-commercial and will take 15 to 20 or more so years to reach commercial levels. Let the technology makers and researchers do their share to bring it home. C) Bring medicine each time you travel. I got into a fever during the session and that was not so pleasant. This lesson is perhaps more important than the first two.

I was overall quite happy with the experience. I met some individuals worth mentioning here. OMRomny from Cambodia, Jun Belizario from UP, Seetharam from ADB (charter cities), Jin Wakabayashi of JICA, Jamilu Choudhury of Bangladesh, and Yoshio Matsumi of Itochu were all respectable individuals that shared much of their thoughts with me – Thank you guys.

 In this session, I felt very much a young and promising social entrepreneur. As the young challenge the old, the old encourage the young. Thank you seniors for inspiring us to try harder to make ruralenergy.org succeed! Thank you Takeda Foundation for the opportunity to partake in regional collaboration. 

Until the next workshop,

William Hong

Here, by the way, is an abstract of our presentation:

The Lamps4Rent Project is a rural lighting project based on community participation and entrepreneurial approach. This project provides rechargeable LED lamps to a community in an off-grid rural island in the Philippines (Pangan-an Island, Cebu). Currently, the community uses electricity from a solar power plant, which has decreasing efficiency. The electricity supply is no longer enough to provide light at night; hence a secondary storage of power, i.e. LED rechargeable lamps, can provide the needed power come nightfall.  While utilizing the existing solar plant, the project creates an affordable and sustainable lamps supply service by applying a daily lamp rental system. The project has been in operation for 1 year and continues to increase in service coverage.

The project is a flagship project of ruralenergy.org in cooperation with Abe Research Group - Tokyo Institute of Technology, and the Pangan-an Island Cooperative for Community Development (PICCD).  The project was awarded the prize fund from the International Center for Social Entrepreneurship (ICSE) business plan competition in 2010. With the support of the above-mentioned groups, the Lamps4Rent project emerged from its trial to full operations stage in a span of one year.  Since September 2011, the project has provided 20 to 25 lamps per day to households and has provided employment for 3 operators from the community. The social and economic impacts of the project were found promising to merit expanding and bringing the project to other rural islands in the Philippines.

Pursuing this social venture has been a product of a variety of key ingredients: network, knowhow, creativity, and willingness. Having the network of people and organizations is essential in bridging ideas to reality. Entrepreneurs must have the skills to connect the pieces of the puzzle including ideas, people, and resources. Knowhow is an ingredient that determines success. It is knowhow that enables one to solve existing problems and boundaries that make the social problem evident in the first place. Creativity is what distinguishes a good idea from a great idea. Creativity can be applied in the broad sense of your project or in the little details that make the project effective to achieve the objective. Willingness is the final ingredient that places all things together. The entrepreneur and the people involved in the project must share the sprit and willingness to pursue the goal. The project proponents ought to have a deep sense of responsibility and desire to address a social problem in order to address it properly. With these ingredients in place, a social venture will have a better chance of succeeding.

Doctor of Engineering

posted Nov 5, 2012, 10:33 PM by William Hong

(2012 - September 25)

Blogger: William
Journey: Japan - TokyoTech. 

After 5 years in the making, we finally did it. On that fateful day (September 25) were officially allowed to place a Doctor of Engineering at the end of our name. Receiving that diploma marked a life-long dedication to service as a doctor – both an honor and a challenge. If ruralenergy.org is to grow and prosper, a dedication of the highest kind is indeed necessary. Being a doctor gives us the license to do so, even more than ever.

Our official dissertation title is as follows: Sustainable development of renewable energy systems for rural electrification: Off-grid solar PV cases from the Philippines. It took six full chapters to finish. Chapter 1: Introduction, Chapter 2: A review of rural electrification and RES, Chapter 3: Sustainability assessment (Panga-an Island Case), Chapter 4: Capacity and willingness of users assessment (Alumar Case), Chapter 5: Strategic energy provision modeling (LED lamps rental Case), and Chapter 6: Conclusions and recommendations. Amen to the 272 pages in total!

For this meaningful milestone, I would like to thank all of those that have supported our cause. To my professor, Naoya Abe, who always believed that we could do it and challenged me to try my best each time – thank you. To my family, who was always there to support my every need – my warmest love. To my friends and colleagues, who provided the laughter, memorable moments, and truest support along the way – cheers!

I will forever remember my time in TokyoTech and Japan. We then move forward with the spirit of discovering the truth for the greater good.

Animo gozaimasu!

http://animociv.blogspot.sg/2012/10/dlsu-alumnus-earns-phd-from-tokyo-tech.html

William Hong

Here is the short abstract of our work:

This study focused on the sustainability of renewable energy systems (RES) through off-grid rural electrification case applications of photovoltaic (PV) systems in the Philippines – having recently pursued energy sector transformation and promulgated regulations to stimulate RES development. The first case, a sub-centralized PV application in a small rural island (Pangan-an Island), displayed how the limited financial capacity of users eventually led to the deterioration of the PV facility. The second case, a solar home system (SHS) project (Alumar Island), confirmed how users` capacity and willingness can be used to predict sustainability performance. For the third case, an alternative lighting strategy using rechargeable LED lamps was mathematically analyzed and was found to effectively serve low-income users. The findings of this study provide practical and theoretical contributions for communities, policy-makers, developers, and academic institutions pursuing off-grid rural electrification through RES.

Here is how we concluded it:

Overall, this investigation explored several key issues of off-grid RES (solar PV) sustainability. Chapter one and two discussed the foundations and scope of the investigation, noting the energy provision challenge using RES to be of global importance with local applicability. Chapter three investigated an actual sub-centralized PV system application which identified and clarified the then uncertain sustainability issues of off-grid RES projects. The challenges were summarized to be issues of users` capacity and appropriate technology matching. Chapter four explained a paradigm shift using a certain capacity and willingness approach to understand the link between capacity and sustainability. Chapter five proposed an innovative lighting provision system with sound practical and mathematical basis to address the lower-tier energy demand market of low-income users. The lessons learned have practical and theoretical implications, which can be used by several stakeholders. Through this study, important academic contributions and recommendations for further research were outlined. Furthermore, practical policy and project implications were recommended to enhance the sustainability of off-grid RES projects.

Blog 12: A solar home survey in Alumar

posted Mar 26, 2012, 3:25 AM by William Hong   [ updated Apr 11, 2012, 3:04 PM by Thomas Geissmann ]

(2012 - March 26)

Blogger: William
Journey: Survey visit to Alumar, Bohol, Philippines

Our latest island adventure took us back to Barangay Alumar in Bohol, Philippines. Thanks to the support of the GCOE program of TokyoTech, we had the opportunity to augment our research data gathering for the solar homes systems situated in this rural islands. In this episode, we collected not only precious data but also invaluable ideas for our future works in ruralenergy.org.

We started our mission with a visit to the DOE-Visayas office where I had my internship; that experience always seems like coming back to a second home. We had a good discussion with Mam Lou Arciaga, and later on Engr.Jun Baclay, to improve our approach in data gathering and analysis. The next few days would be spent for our island visit. The pictures to the right helps us imagine (or recall) the sights we see in visiting an island. One thing would be the vast ocean. The trip to the nearest port, Jetafe, has been shortened to an hour by the new and faster boat service, Starcraft. I had to settle for the traditional 2.5 hour boat ride though since trips were not as frequent. I would savor this trip though. As we near the island, I once again got a glimpse of the house that stands right in the middle of the sea. I wonder how the people there can stand having nothing but water as a backyard; there is even a dog in that household. Armed with our backpack full of supplies, we would spend some fruitful days in the island. 

Our first order of business was to plan our events and survey process. Thanks to our local contact, Roldan Salabao, I was able to get meaningful discussions and planning sessions for the survey. Roldan has a good background on electronics and has been keeping his SHS in top shape through the years. If there is a local guy that understands the SHS from wire to wire, this would be the guy. Our visit this time would focus on the technical condition of the SHS in each household; a hefty load it seems, considering there are 50 households with SHSs. Local support, however, allows many things. After planning out the exact details of what and how to check, we would ask the help of the 3 technicians that are maintaining the solar home systems. We split the tasks to be accomplished in a few days of work.

To understand the process better I visited a few of the homes myself. Most households are made of light bamboo and nipa (local palm leaves) materials. It is still a mysterious sight seeing a very primitive house having a sophisticated solar home system powering its lights. In any case, our objective was to assess and score the users on how well they have maintained their SHS system through the years. We would check the connections and conditions of the loads, battery and charge controller. The loads are the first to be checked. Many of the loads (usually lighting) are often placed in positions which are susceptible to grounding. This is especially true for houses with roofs that are not as waterproof to begin with. Also, loads which exceed the capacity of the system are not recommendable in the long term. Poorly situated and excessive loads point to low awareness and knowledge of the user in caring for the system. The next to be checked would be the charge controller which needs proper usage and cleaning. Properly-cared-for charge controllers are visibly cleaner and properly connected. The final part to be checked would be the battery(s). Not only should these be placed in the right location for safety, batteries also need to be cleaned and replenished with distilled water to function properly. The deep cycle batteries initially provided for the systems have been replaced after 2 to 3 years service. Assessing the conditions of the system components help us understand the capacity and willingness of the user to maintain and sustain their SHS for the long term. With the help of the local technicians, each of the 50 households were checked and scored.

While visiting the households I got to find the alternative power supplies they are using. These always catch my attention since ruralenergy.org focuses on screening out these alternatives for more efficient means. Aside from the traditional kerosene lamp, one common light source is the waterproof flashlight which they use to go fishing at night. The local fishermen have gotten used to the heavy and handheld design which I doubt has truly been designed for fishing. In any case, this particular type uses up 4 size D 1.5V batteries (P22 each) in a weeks time. In this case, it costs about P88 pesos per week. Not only is this expensive, the used-up batteries accumulate to waste and health hazards. If we can find a way to replace this lighting system with rechargeable waterproof lamps then we are in business. The search continues for our wonder lamp! Our technical visit keeps my mind thinking for better alternatives.
 
Talking about business, the season for seaweeds was slowly coming back. Seaweeds farming is the main source of livelihood in the island; where about 90% of the households engage in it. Although seaweeds are seasonal in nature, the culturing and farming takes place year round as the supply chain needs an endless cycle of planting, harvesting, and replanting. A typical life of a seaweed starts with stemming and planting. The seedlings (as they term it) are simply cut from a bigger stalk of seaweeds which were previously grown. These stalks are tied into rows of ropes with floaters in the open sea. Seaweeds grow double or triple their size in 45 days time at good conditions (windy times with strong current flows). When the seaweeds grow enough in size, these are harvested by hand and are dried in open air and sunlight. It takes a few days to a week for these seaweeds to completely dry up. These are then sacked and readied for selling. Local buyers come in boats to gather the seaweed supply which sells about PhP40 to 50 per kilo. These are then traded locally or internationally for various usage. Alumar Island has been blessed with good conditions for seaweeds farming which has provided a happy way of life for the island people.

The times I spent in the island(s) are memories I would cherish for life. I felt at home living there, eating the local food, sleeping in the local beds, and waking up to the local sunshine that would give the island and its people the energy to live. I have come to learn many things about rural life through this visit which no book can every explain. Tacit knowledge, as they say, are those things learned not through writings or stories, but are rather learned only by experience. While we engineers try to connect the people to technologies that would enrich their lives, the energy and hospitality of these people connect us back to what life, in its simplest essence, is all about. This journey was set to explore the capacity and willingness of users to sustain a renewable energy system. In return, the lessons expanded my capacity and willingness to understand the simple and immeasurable happiness these rural people live with everyday. 

The tides have changed. We no longer try to bring energy to the rural areas; rather, we shall look for and harness the energy that are found in the rural areas! 

Until then,

William
 

A technical visit to the solar home systems of Alumar

 a house in the seaA house needing solar?

 
Our boatman 
 
Backpack traveler


A house with solar (SHS)

 

 
 
Dangerously placed loads
 
Can solar power these?
  
Testing the panel output through
the charge controller
 
Testing the battery output
 
Deep cycle battery for SHS
 
Alternative light source
(water proof!)
 
Non-rechargeable batteries
(expensive)
 
Kerosene lamp if nothing else 
 

The seaweed farming cycle

 
Plant the seaweeds in rows
(windy time is best)
 
Wait for 45 days till harvest
 
Dry the seaweeds 
(a few days)


Dry further if needed

 
 
 
Bag the dried weeds 
 
Sell to local market
 

Blog 11: Sand and Sun (Hawaii to the Philippines)

posted Jan 15, 2012, 7:52 PM by William Hong   [ updated Apr 11, 2012, 3:05 PM by Thomas Geissmann ]

(2012 - January 16)

Blogger: William
Journey: Hawaiian conference and Philippine visit

A happy and energizing new year to everyone. It is always good to end the year and welcome the new one with a bang. In my case, it was full of sand and sun. We visited Hawaii for an energy conference before heading to the Philippines for a quick visit to our projects.

It was my first time in Hawaii and the 4th GCOE International Energy Conference took me to international waters one more time. The warm Hawaiian island atmosphere with its occasional drizzles was all too perfect to have a week long conference and socialization with energy engineers from all over the globe. I presented our lamps rental research discussing our supply model. I was glad it was received well by the audience. Once again I realize the uniqueness of our research as it deals with the people and how they interact with energy as compared to the more fundamentally technical researches out there. Lamps4Rent and SolarSea may have just had their first debut presentation in the energy research field. What were once simply business ideas now have found truly intellectual meaning worth researching about. I was more than happy to summarize my work for the last few months through this conference and I look forward to writing it into a journal.

Hawaii indeed gave me several thoughts to ponder on: 1) How deep do we need to go about ocean energy? Can`t it be found in the shallows? 2) Will renewable energy cause man to abandon the fossil fuel based sources as fast as how sugarcane facilities were abandoned due to corn substitutes? 3) Hawaii seems so much like my home town Cebu, I wonder what we can learn from Hawaii to develop developing islands. I always believe in the thought that we do not need to travel time to see the future. All we have to do is go to a new place that has gone through more or a different experience than where we are. Or better yet, why don`t we create the future? Here here for my new found interest, development economics. I would like to be an expert at this particular field someday. Looking forward.

After the Hawaiian sun, I headed to the Philippines to touch base with home. It was all but a fitting way to celebrate the Christmas season and the coming of the new year. And usually when I am home, I always like to keep my eyes open and feet active for new places to visit. Before that though, lets take a look of how our L4R project is doing. A visit to Pangan-an is always a treat. This time I was treated with a manta ray for lunch thanks to our local team`s hospitality. As for our lamps, all 19 + 4 lamps are still standing. It was good to know that the rental rate has been maintained at more than 80%. This includes the times when the lamps are undercharged and are returned prematurely. It is a human inefficiency we can accept though. I was also glad that the 2 months of full operations yielded 2 new lamps to be added to the supply. I brought them in and they are colored yellow like the sun.  I stayed in the rental station for some time and got to see all half of the supply being rented out one by one by users coming in. The solar power station however is not fairing as well though. Less and less energy is produced from the plant which forced the cooperative to purchase a diesel generator to be used at night. Caution for this though, they need a bit of help in properly costing and managing this new source. I do hope sir jun comes in to intervene and make sure they do it right. 

I also visited the DOE office. Sure enough I met our old colleagues there who welcomed me with happy smiles. I felt so at home there as we exchanged stories of the past few months I was away. Sir jun and mam lou were there and I was more than happy to update them on our research progress. I am looking forward to the new programs the DOE has for SHS distributions. Mam lou is involved with the household electrification program, HEP, and I am hoping our upcoming research will jive well with the program. I certainly am as ever interested in finding out how we can measure people`s willingness and capacity to sustain. I still believe these are key concepts to use when dealing with development projects, especially for electrification. It might very well be closely related to my new found interest, development economics. How indeed can a community develop properly? Yes electricity is a driver. But what is a driver for without a car and a road to follow? 

Hopping on. I was invited by our family friend to visit their island in Bohol which they hoped to develop into a resort. I took a 1.5hour boat to Bohol to Tubigon to the nearest access point to this small yet majestic of an island which I could not yet name. This island had a few inhabitants which were easily relocated so as to make way for an full development of the island into a resort. And naturally, this island would need energy. I happily discussed and went over the energy options and scenarios with the owner. While fossil fuel based sources are more reliable and economical in most scenarios, there is surely a market for eco-tourism who may very well go for green options. That is for the high end tourists though. What about the normal poor community islands? There were several other islands in the area. Just with my eyes I could count 5 to 7 islands which were similarly sized with populations varying from a handful to a hundred households. Certainly these were the typical off-grid low income communities we are studying about. Again, all these island would need energy and I seemed to know at the back of my mind what they needed. Here before me were potential markets for our SolarSea Project. I sure can`t wait to make that first pilot project and refine that concept to its commercial state. Until then though, I will keep an eye out for these potential islands we can serve. That trip to Tubigon was indeed a good eye opener. I took a picture of a sand dollar. Gets me thinking really. If we can find a dollar in the sand, how much more in a whole island?

This past few weeks has truly been a sand and sun adventure. Thank you to all the friends and colleagues that have supported me through the journey. We now come back to Japan refreshed and ready to push the pedal to the metal once again with research. I do hope to keep focused on our year`s goals: 1) Graduation and 2) the next step. We have a wide ocean ahead of us to explore and enjoy. 
 
Cheers to the new year 2012!

William

Hawaii, USA

 
   
Conference Presentation
 
Deep-sea research sub


Old sugarcane facility
 

Hawaiian wind farms 

 


The Hawaiian mountains 
The Hawaiian sunset
 


Pangan-an Island, Cebu, Philippines

 


All lamps still standing 


 New recruits
(units 25 and 26)
  


Diesel Gen-set for night  

 
Daily users: students




Panels are not looking too good  


46kwh after 3 months 

 

Tubigon, Bohol, Philippines

 


One of many islands to explore


Tubigon, Bohol

 
Boating in the rain

 
A sandbar islet 


 
A sand dollar
 
Me and the ocean
 

  

Blog 10: Research as Usual (RAU), Solar-Sea and IDAcademy

posted Nov 11, 2011, 6:55 AM by William Hong   [ updated Apr 8, 2012, 3:54 PM by Thomas Geissmann ]

(2011 - November 11)

Blogger: William
Journey: Research as Usual (RAU), Solar-Sea and IDAcademy.
 
 
It has been more than a month since we got back to the lab. Compared to on-site exposures, it is quite different here. The leaves you see in the real field are green. In the lab, the leaves are white, the ones you find in books. None the less, it is good as a researcher to sit down and be in your thinking zone and start pounding on the theoretical concepts of the real world. And that is exactly what we have done in the past few weeks.
 
Research As Usual (RAU) could be the new term here. I am currently focusing on the development of a lamp rental system model, for theoretical modeling, simulation, and optimization. I can`t divulge all the details about it yet but one recent output we have might give you a hint.
 
Last week, on November 5, 2011, the Solar-Sea Project (SSP) was presented in the International Center for Social Entrepreneurship (ICSE) business plan competition 2011. And just like its older brother project, the Lamps for Rent Project (L4R), the Solar-Sea won the award for the competition, this time the NEC Award. It was another enlightening day for ruralenergy.org. Just to explain briefly, the Solar-Sea project will be the next pilot project for the organization, taking it to the seas! With the realization that lamps were not exactly contributing to the economic situation of the households unless they were linked with their livelihoods, the Solar-Sea Project aims to provide rechargeable underwater lamps, again through a rental system, to provide better opportunities to fishing communities. Cheers to the SSP and I wish it well for its future pilot project.
 
At this point in time, I would also like to commend a special group quite close to my heart. In fact, this group was borne from a piece of it. Before that though, a little bit of history. The first time I heard about the word "social entrepreneurship" was back sometime in year 2005 while playing a round of golf with my close friend JJ. He shared to me that his professor was a so called social entrepreneur and it was something new. He needed not to explain it fully to me, because in an instant I seemed to grasp the whole concept of that new world by just hearing those two words aligned in such a manner. Since then, that though never left my mind and I dreamed that some day I would be a social entrepreneur myself. Who knew that a few years later I would already transform a little piece of myself into that. In year 2007, during my masters years, a group of friends and I met together to form this group, we called back then, International Development Association - TokyoTech. It was a new organization in this university, and unique for Japan anyway, which would empower students to pursue international social development projects even while in the academe. Fast forward a few years later, we already came up with several award winning projects; the Modialogo Engineering Awards (MEA) Nepal Project to name our biggest achievement. This group has been the real inspiration of ruralenergy.org. Now a days, we refer to IDA as the International Development Academy where I served as an officer for 2 years already. Just recently, we had our humble election of officers where we welcomed the new IDAcademy Core 3G! It was with great pleasure and profound happiness when I handed over our organization`s leadership to the new group. I understood that time does allow things to grow if you would just be patient. To my dearest IDAcademy family, thank you for being my inspiration to move forward and pursue the dream of being a social entrepreneur!
 
It will still be research as usual (RAU) for a few more months here. We graduate in 1 year time, September 2012, here we come. For now, the Christmas season is coming up so we do need to spice things up to get ready for a quick corner of accomplishments and rest. In energy research it is important to keep a good balance between theory and practice. What keeps us alive is the food we eat everyday. But really, the soul needs something more than just the physical. And so before the Solar-Sea Project sails on, we need to prepare the theoretical side of it. I look forward to the upcoming weeks. Research as usual (RAU), the Solar-Sea Project (SSP), and IDAcademy are three inseparable friends that equate to mind, body, and soul for me. These three keep the wheels turning and lamps burning for ruralenergy.org.
 
Happy holidays soon my friends,
 
William




The Solar-Sea Project proposal debuts at ICSE Business Plan Competition 2011 
winning the top prize given by NEC.

Solar-Sea Project winning the NEC Award with fellow IDA entries 
was mentioned in Nikkan Kogyou Shimbun 
(Daily Industrial Newspaper, November 10, 2011)
・日刊工業新聞2011年11月11日記事
・転載承認済(承認番号:N-4741)


 

The recent election of the new IDAcademy Core 3G! 
Renewed strength, refined vision.
October 26, 2011

The International Development Academy - TokyoTech
Our humble organization pursuing international social development, 
encouraging students to practice what they preach!
Founded in year 2008

Blog 9: An energizing trip to Germany (EUPV)

posted Sep 29, 2011, 7:33 PM by William Hong   [ updated Apr 8, 2012, 3:55 PM by Thomas Geissmann ]

(2011 - September 30)

Blogger: William
Journey: Euro trip to Germany through (Bankok, Copenhagen, Germany)

Our last adventure took us to a 2-week energy-learning marathon through the fields, mountains, and rails of Germany. This was all for the attendance to the biggest Photovoltaics Conference to date, the European Photovoltaics Conference or the EUPV. It was a great privilege to be in this conference. The lessons learned, experience gathered, and the sights seen are testimonies to the beauty of the journey of learning about energy.
 

The Conference

The EUPV is, for the PV experts, the biggest show on air when it comes to the latest technologies, trends and anything buzzing with the word PV or solar in it. Our Abe Research team, Abe Sensei, Mukai San, Ishio-San, went to participate in the event by presenting two of our researches and attending several sessions. With the gazillion academic presentations, industry booths, and poster sessions, we could finally say that the PV industry is really as big as the sun. 

I presented the recent works we completed at the DOE about Pangan-an Solar Project, renewables for off-grid rurals. We did it quite well actually. I felt quite happy to share what we learned about our community in the Philippines and it seemed several others were also inclined to that direction. I was approached by a Belgian researcher who really wanted to know more, since Belgium did donate the system. I must say though that the our rural community approach to RE diffusion is still a minority endeavor in that huge event simply because social research and community development isnt really the focus but rather technology and grid integration when it comes to PV. It clearly shows though that more focus and efforts need to be done for the communities out there needing light and energy.

There was also an industry exposition portion. There I bought a small solar windmill and got a free solar lamp from Mr.Christian Repky of http://www.sol-expert-group.de/. I certainly will give their products a shot for the next  solar lantern projects. It was good to see that the PV industry is thriving. A lot of groups were working together, from manufacture, installers, researchers and policy makers. A noteworthy group would be PVPS (Photovoltaic Power Sytems Prgramme) where we met the glue that holds them together Mrs.Mary Brunisholz  the executive secretary. PVPS is a non-profit group attached with IEA where they have formed several tasks to pursue for PV technology involving several countries. I would like to become the PVPS contact in the Philippines someday. What do you think Ms.Mary? We also got to meet Ms.Virginia of PV Cycle, on of the select few groups that thinks about the future recycling of PV to date. Indeed, the industry is thriving and its a great time to start building a future career in this industry.


Energy Stops

After our 4-day conference, we then slowly headed south for some energy stops. In this leg of the trip, we would be visiting a couple of groups that dealt with community PV activities. Of course, occasional sight seeings accompanied the ride. 
 
First stop was Dessau. This place, not many know but once they realize that this was where modern minimalistic art was born, they begin to recognize the importance of this place. Here, we visited the famous BAUHAUS  where again, modern art was born and cultivated. They had a museum showcasing stuff 50 years old and yet are seen in todays markets and considered modern. Interesting.

Second stop was Dressden. A beautiful place, in fact, the most beautiful place we went to. Surreal surroundings as the buildings and streets were just full of culture in form of art and expression. Here we met a group called Local Agenda 21  which is actually part of a global network of groups pursuing sustainable development of their communities. Here we got to learn about the GBR (smallest unit of a business structure composed of about 1 or 3 persons) and Gmbh (with limited liability) which allows individuals or groups to establish a PV home system and trade energy in the grid. Because of the feed-in-tariff for renewable energy, this is possible and lucrative in Germany and some other places in Europe. That`s how they do it eh?

Third stop was Stuttgart. A younger crowd awaited us in this place. We stayed at a place called Badcanstratt. The first 3 letters there would pretty much summarize the hood-iness of the place. It was anyhow the closest spot to where we needed to go, the Academia de Diocese Rottenburg-Stuttgart. This time, a religious group pursued the systematic dispersion of PV in their congregation`s buildings and areas. The rationale was, since the Christian institutions in Germany used up huge amounts of energy each year, it was reasonable and "God-sent" mission to go forth and multiply in a sustainable manner. Thus, Mr.Barwig was kind enough to enthusiastically explain to us all the details of their activities. They basically went with the GBR concept and did it in a parish based community or schools willing to participate in green production of energy. The following day we visited the another group pursuing community PV. This time their group was in a format of a cooperative, where about 300 or so members would put up funds to pursue rooftop installations and rentals for PV. Mr.Hugel and Mrs.Annet was kind enough to explain to us their works in that organization. 

Final stop before heading home, workshop with the boys at Universitat Stuttgart. A year back I met these Germans in Okinawa in a conference. These were the only Germans I knew then and they were like brothers to me. It felt great seeing them again, not to mention they were all PV experts. After all, we do have to explain to our funding group where we were, and of course, every step of the way has to be legitimately "business". So we hanged out a bit in their school and got to see their researches and rooftop installations. When the sun was done charging up the batteries, we went for a nice dinner and a few drinks to enjoy the beautiful city of Stuttgart.


Realizations

The trip was amazingly filled with not only memories but also realizations which cannot be simply read in books. In the perspective of an energy researcher, Germany has really placed itself ahead of the pack in terms of technology development and integration to society. If we want to see to the future of our own countries in terms of energy supply and sustainability, Germany would be a good model to assimilate and learn from. PV technology is getting ever better as the industry pushes to the limits of the sun. Before I doubted about what PV would be. Now I know. Solar and PV technology would definitely be a sustainable energy source the whole world would greatly rely on in the near and far future.

until then,

William
 
 
 

 
At the EUPV Conference

 
Presenting our research

 
With a block of Silicon

 
PV Expo

 (William, Ishio, Mukai, Prof.Weda, Prof. Abe)

 
Local Agenda 21 (rooftop meeting)

 
PV Cycle group    

 
Stuttgart`s PV cooperative 

 
PV power monitoring module

 
Academie de Diocese Rottenburg-Stuttgart

 
Beautiful Dressden

 
Stuttgart University friends for life.


Someday, all of our roofs would have these grey/black/blue-looking things 
which would provide for our energy needs. Someday.


Blog 8: closing remarks to the internship

posted Sep 6, 2011, 12:26 AM by William Hong   [ updated Apr 8, 2012, 2:44 PM by Thomas Geissmann ]

(2011 - September 1)
 
 
Blogger: William
 
 
Let me reiterate that already three months has passed. My internship, a wonderful learning experience. My last day at doe was pretty simple yet memorable. I had to finish up the report for pangan-an. It was my last horrah for that project. Sir jun and I finally completed the decision options report for the island which for years has been elusive for DOE to accomplish. We finally decided on the best recommendation we could have for the project. That is, we recommend the transfer of ownership to the electric cooperative which holds the franchise for the area to begin with. This gives DOE some breathing space while the ER1-94 funds can get to work. It will perhaps be a new era of renewable energy projects.
 
Slowly, the pilot projects are beginning to reach the hands of privately run organizatons. Recently, we have been seeing a lot of technology push efforts for renewables in the Philippines. The renewable energy act has solidly been backed by the ER1-94 and other government programs, such as the household electrification program, to enable the quick diffusion of RESs in the rural areas. I feel I just hit the jackpot of things to know about. Recently, I learned and got convinced that the big companies in the Philippines are indeed moving to energy. Although it has been here for ages, interestingly, we could say that energy is the future. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank a few people from DOE that have supported my stay there. Firstly to Engr. Magdaleno M. Baclay Jr., otherwise known as sir jun, who has been my man-to-man guide throughout my internship. The times learning together have been memorable. Next is Mam Lou Arciaga who has been like a mother to me. Also to Director Tony Labios who has been the source of approvals from the beginning. Then to the other staff of DOE, sir Ed Amante, sir Agi Briones, mam Sally, kuya Jerry, kuya william, sir Roland, and all other staff that have been so helpful and welcoming. I look forward to meeting you all in the near future. Also to the staff of PICCD and Alumar, Roldan, who have all contributed to a safe and memorable journey to the projects. Cheers to the pancit (noodles), bread and coke meriendas (snacks) at DOE-VFO headquarters.
 
I'm back in Japan now. The plane just landed for the nth time for me an now I'm headed back to the barracks. Its been quite a while ever since my last train ride. The outside scenes are slowly reminding me of what life was before the internship. Anyhow, the journey continues for research and learning. Il have tomorrow to prepare for the Euro trip on Friday. I must say, to study about energy, you need a lot of it. Success beholds those who spend it on the right things too. Patience and focus. Let me end by sharing the wisdom of sir Agi Briones. What is greater than God and worse than the devil? You cannot live with it and if you eat it, you  will die.. (share it?) the answer is, nothing. Nothing is greater than God and worse than the devil. You cannot live with nothing, and if you eat nothing, you will die. Certainly one of the few jokes cracked by sir Agi to keep the energy in the office alive. According to Mr.Hal Harimoto (a venture capitalist expert), if you can tell a joke about a certain field, it means you are an expert at it. I sure do hope Sir Agi comes up with more riddles about something other than nothing. Well, how about a joke about energy? Do you have one? All I know is, more energy mas happy! (the more energy you have, the happier you are.) With that, lets bring happiness to the world by energizing the rurals!
 
Until then,
 
William

Blog 7: Final Corner

posted Aug 24, 2011, 12:26 AM by William Hong   [ updated Apr 8, 2012, 2:25 PM by Thomas Geissmann ]

(2011 - August 24)

Blogger: William
Journey: DOE-VFO Headquarters and Barangay Alumar

Well who knew the 3 months internship (2.5 actually) would just pass by so fast. I am now in the final week of this visit to the DOE-VFO as a researcher/intern. It has been exciting in many aspects though the fun and challenges are not far from over. We still have the final report to finish up for our Pangan-an Island Evaluation Project which I will be presenting the the staff here at DOE this coming Friday. Along with that, I have a few other reports to finish up; The upcoming EUPV paper st
ands first in line. 

Today though I finally got my Europe/Schengen Visa. Thank God for that. I am looking forward to the EUPV Conference in Hamburg this coming September 9 to 12 where we will present our research output during this 3-month stint here in DOE. It will be my first time in Europe and I guess RuralEnergy.
org will soon get some pictures of the beautiful places there soon.

Back to our works though.

Last week we successfully deployed and collected the surveys in Barangay Alumar, Bohol. This survey was done to investigate on the SHS users` Capacity and Willingness to Sustain. I recon that being able to define and measure these two variables (CTS and WTS) would give us a better idea of how individuals in communities differ in certain characteristics which enable them to perform better or worse in sustaining the RE projects deployed in their areas. With the gracious help of our local contact there, Mr.Roldan Salabao, the survey was completed in a week`s time. Now I just have to sort through each of them and interpret the data we gathered. We will hear more about that in the coming months.
 
As for our Lamps project, basing on the latest feedback from our local staff there, the lamps are renting like hotcakes. It seems the users are seeing the advantages of our rechargeable lamps being cost-effective to bring light in their homes. I had distributed a user`s satisfaction survey recently and by next week we can retrieve them next week along with the rental data that has been logged for the last 20 days. I do look forward to the results. Ill share them here in the blog soon.

These are the updates for now here. Stay tuned for more ruralenergy.org action soon.
 
Next stop would be Europe.
 
Cheers!

William

 

These were some of the pictures taken in the recent trip to Alumar. There is something about this place that just mesmerizes me. The calm and soothing sea and air makes me feel as if the busy world did not matter at all and that man was meant to dwell with nature at its simplest.

 
 

 

 

Check out this outrigger boat pic. I was sitting at the tip of the boat which was running in full speed. I took my camera out and hanged it down to take the shot. Zoom!

 
 

 

This right here is what we call "guso". Internationally know as seaweeds, these grow about 4 to 8 times their size in 45 days. I learned that these only grow well during the monsoon and rainy days. Hence, from July to February of the following year, these plants can be grown, harvested, and sold for a good price. Im looking forward to farming guso in the near future.

 
                                                      

Blog 6: Rest, Study, and Action

posted Aug 5, 2011, 7:23 PM by William Hong   [ updated Apr 8, 2012, 2:37 PM by Thomas Geissmann ]

(2011 - August 6)

Blogger: William
Journey: DOE-VFO Headquarters and Visit to Pangan-an
 
 
It has been weeks since my last blog. Its good to be writing this again. It all started with a week of getting hit by a crazy case of tonsillitis then it was followed by a week of planning and reports and finally ended up being able to deliver the deliverables to the island. Rest, Study, and Action pretty much encapsulates my updates. Ill skip right up to the meaty parts though. 
 

Getting there

After some weeks of keeping up with the work (reports and discussions) at DOE office, I finally got to visit the island once again to bring the rest of the lamps to officially swing the project to full operations mode. Remember that a few weeks ago we brought 5 lamps to the island to give our staff a chance to practice charging and using the lamps for themselves. After some weeks of getting used to the cycles, it already seemed right to start RENTING out the lamps. Bringing the last batch to the island was a boat ride to remember. Usually around this time of the year (July to August), the Habagat, or southwest monsoons, comes blowing in to the little islands of the southern part of the Philippines. As you can imagine, the seas aren`t as pleasant, especially when all you are riding is a medium-sized outrigger boat across the channel from Cebu to Pangan-an. Anyhow, we made it across and back safely (as I am still alive writing to tell about it). This time I went alone actually since sir Jun had some other matters to attend to.
 

Charging the Lamps

As all the 20 lamps were now together, we finally, for the first time, got to charge the lamps all together in the island. It was quite evident that the electricity consumption went up. I am now estimating that the entire system would take up about 0.5 kWhs per day of charging. That`s roughly about 15kWhs per month. In no time, we will become one of the few users in the island who consume about 12 to 15kWhs per month (thats actually big considering that the users average about 6 to 9 kWhs only and about 43% of users are using less than 3kWhs per mont). Anyhow, we did foresee this aspect anyway and we will allot a budget to pay for the electricity consumed. 


Pricing the Lamps

During this initial stage of renting, the pricing would be very crucial to set correctly for the reasons that it is usually difficult to change prices after a project starts delivering the service. As designed, the lamps will be rented out for PhP 5 per day. Comparing to alternative lighting sources for the island, this price is ideal since we will compete directly with those using kerosene lamps who spend about PhP5-10 per day of use. There wasn`t any adjustment to the price we set for the people. What I felt needed adjustment though was the allotment of the proceeds. In my calculation, if for example the 20 lamps would be rented out 20 days of the month, then the total proceeds would be 20x20x5 = PHP2,000. The current plan is to pay half (PHP1,000) of this to the staff that worked for the service and the rest would go to payments for electricity usage and Funds for New Lamps. In that way, it is probable that the system can purchase a new lamp locally per month (local lamps cost about PhP700 - 900). In the first 3 days of operations, about 10 to 11 lamps were rented out per day. The return rate of the lamps is a 100% also (good since we hope the lamps are returned each day to be charged). 
 

Lamps` Durability and Effectiveness

After the 20 days of trial operation of the first 5 lamps, we actually have our first lamp casualty. LAMP No. 4 was a good lamp. Sadly, during its duty in the trial days, one of the users did not notice his son plugging the lamp into a 220V system using a somehow compatible radio wire to our lamp. Ouch. Lamp 4 still lights up but would no longer charge. It is currently being studied for repairs. All other lamps though, have served their purposes well. The lamps are much brighter than kerosene lamps and thus the lamps have a welcoming market. We will observe more how our lamps survive the environment and usage in the island scenario. 


Research and Reports

Research has been progressing somehow. It is always tough to balance your works and research and life. Anyhow, this week was another step towards solidifying the concept of Capacity to Sustain (CTS) and Willingness to Sustain (WTS). So far, the primary variables identified (through expert discussions) for these would be Income and Education. I am currently creating a grading system for these two variables to reflect the users` CTS and WTS. Needs more development though. As for the Pangan-an report, we are getting closer to our conclusions. We are currently discussing the decision options for the project. I feel the 5-dimension framework (technical, economic, social, institutions, environmental) is still holding up. The next few weeks would be a battle. We are approaching the final corner of my internship. I am hoping all things would go well.

During these monsoon times, the winds blog intently to topple what is. These are also the times when we must be unwavering in effort and persistence to accomplish our works. Amidst  the dark of the night and strong winds, our solar lamps can shine; replacing the once hazardous lamps of oil.

Until then,

William
 

Week`s Pics

LAMPS FOR RENT. Officially launches all 20 lamps. August 3, 2011.

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