Solar and other forms of renewable energy have been an interest of mine for some time now because I have worked for about a year as a lead copywriter (remote) for a UK-based solar energy company. I wrote up various pages for the company’s website and also created daily copies for the blog section. That copywriting stint opened my eyes to the wonders of solar energy. Why, the sun is a boundless, free and clean source of energy — way better than fossil-based energy sources which are non-renewable and highly polluting, not to mention expensive and monopolized by a few Middle Eastern countries, at times for political and economic machinations.
I was impressed at how the UK, for example, has provided grants and subsidies to households and commercial establishments which have opted to go solar. There were also tax exemptions and other forms of incentives that encouraged the uptake of solar technology. Excess energy produced by their panels were also bought by the government grid. This is a country which hardly ever gets the full brunt of the sun the whole day, and even has dark winters.
That got me to wishful thinking about my sunny, winter-free Philippines. While Europeans have to orient their solar panels to track the sun, I think our country is blessed with the bright smile of Mr. Sun all day long, almost all year round. And so when I came across a fellow-WAHM (work-at-home-mom) who is into solar business, I reached out to her for this interview. I hope to see more and more Filipinos including me, who would consider going solar, a step at a time. I hope the government would subsidize solar uptake so more Filipinos could afford solar technology.
1. Please tell us about your solar business. When was it created? What led you to create a solar business?
Menchie: SHS Philippines was established by the end of the year 2010 by two OFW family friends looking to venture into a Philippine-based business. Mr. Joel Chua and Mr. Ed Rowin Santos are each exposed to the China manufacturing and export juggernaut for a minimum of 13 years which includes the production surveillance and quality control of electronic and solar-related products like garden lights. Knowing that Philippines is richly-blessed with longer sunlight hours, it is just a matter of time when technology and cost-effective production will increase the Filipino awareness and appreciation of solar use.
2. What products or services do you offer? Where are your solar panels manufactured and what can you guarantee regarding their quality and durability?
Menchie: We offer any solar-related products from DIY solar kits, customer-specified designs for ON or OFF grids, solar street lights, solar irrigation, solar lanterns and solar power banks. We are always on the look-out for any upcoming solar projects that may be deemed practical and usable for the Philippine market.
Our solar panels are made by experienced and audited China manufacturers. Our solar cells are made from German cell manufacturers like Bosch or Taiwan-brand cells. Then the assembled solar panels (or Photo-voltaic or PV panels), are sample tested and approved by prestigious test laboratory companies like TUV and Bureau Veritas.
We only sell grade A solar panels and are confident about their good quality. And we are proud to claim that we still do not have any customer complaint regarding our solar panels installed since we started selling them 4 years ago.
Finally, we offer excellent after-sales services that some competitors fail or do not provide at all. When a solar component fails within its warranty period, we will replace it immediately with a brand new unit without any condition and we will visit their location site once a system problem is confirmed by the customer. Our warranty period for all solar panels is 3 years while the remaining solar parts are for 1 year.
3. How much is the cheapest solar installation you offer and what devices does it power up?
Menchie: Well, we do have solar lantern kits that has SRP value at Php 2,500 only. It is a 3W solar panel powering a 3W solar lantern that has 3 brightness settings and can also be used as a mobile phone power bank charger. However, this cannot power any home appliance.
By design, we can make any small to medium solar set-up depending on the client’s actual need and target savings. We also have easy DIY solar kit configurations to power TV, electric fans and LED bulbs depending on different hours of usage.
4. Do you offer instalment plans? Please describe them in terms of term duration and interest rates.
Menchie: We have not yet offered instalment plans to individual clients. We do offer 50-50 term payments to established entities like cooperatives. By 50-50, we mean 50% payment deposit and 50% payable in the succeeding 6 months at a very minimal percentage added.
5. How much do you charge for installation? Are solar panels maintenance-free or do consumers have to contend with repair and maintenance issues?
Menchie: There are no fixed amount to charge for the installation as this will depend on varying factors like total numbers of solar panels to install, the location of the project and the mounting method the client wishes to have like roof mounting, wall mounting, elevated mounting. But as a rule of thumb, the installation cost should be between 30%-40% of the solar project investment.
Solar panels can be easily maintained by simply wiping the front glass with wet towels to remove dusts and dirts. Using any soap or cleaning agent is prohibited as this would eventually cause the glass surface to blur thereby reducing the light transparency.
Above all, solar panels have a life expectancy between 20-25 years in which the output efficiency gradually declines from ca. 95% conversion rate to well within 80% conversion. With this endurance, solar energy systems should have return of investment between 8-10 years with the remaining yield-years providing FREE electricity.
6. I’m sure your own home has a solar installation. Please describe it in terms of how much you spent and what appliances and devices it is backing up.
Menchie: Our home office in Malolos has 1 x 3W, 1 x 10W and 3 x 50W = 163W of solar panels mounted on the roof. In terms of prevailing market prices, this would be around Php 24,000 worth. The complete system is powering up a total of 30W of LED bulbs that we use every night time for 11-12 hours.
7. How much do you save per month in terms of electricity bills?
Menchie: Theoretically, we can save Php 260 pesos with our complete solar set-up.
8. How do you describe the level of awareness of Filipinos when it comes to solar technology?
Menchie: The Filipinos in the past 2-3 years are becoming more aware of the long-term benefits of this renewable resource. More solar projects, as big as solar farms and as small as scales torch lights are being featured in media and are being sold openly in electronics shops. The main drawback for the Filipinos to fully embrace and utilize solar energy is the seeming high-initial cost of investment.
9. What do you think should the government do to encourage more Filipinos to go solar?
Menchie: In my opinion, the government should take the cue about enticing consumer incentives mostly found in first world country wherein the extra on-grid power generated by a domestic home would be justly compensated or paid by the distributing company. The first step is now being realized with the introduction by Meralco of their net metering scheme but this only allows the solar user to get a zero monthly bill as the maximum benefit. No payments to consumer by Meralco will happen.
The net-metering payment must be encouraged nationwide by legislation and cooperation of all power distribution companies.
10. Please tell us a few clients that you have serviced and their inspiring testimonials.
Menchie: For reason of privacy to our clients, we will refrain from openly stating their names here. However, from our existing clients, we do have repeat orders, especially for our DIY solar kits. We also have follow-up inquiries regarding our customer’s plan to upgrade the solar energy system that we have installed for them.
How about you, dear readers, have you tried solar energy? How has it been? Please share your experience.