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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!


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