A group of alumni from Ateneo de Manila University banded together to form a company that aims to deliver electricity from the sun to remote communities in the Philippines.
“Solar Solutions Inc. is a social enterprise. We aim to empower communities through renewable energy and one of our products and services is called Solar Sari Sari Store—an energy station that offers basic services to off-grid communities,” says Rey Guerrero, a co-founder of Solar Solutions Inc.
Solar Sari Sari Store enables people in distant communities such as secluded mountain villages and remote islands that are not connected to a power grid to recharge their phones or use bright lighting at night.
The solar station is also most useful on the sites of natural disasters, where electricity is cut off.
Guerrero, 31, is now the full-time operations manager of Solar Solutions, which is based at ISO Building in the Ateneo de Manila University complex, Loyola Heights, Quezon City.
A graduate of Electronics and Communications Engineering from Ateneo, he had worked for a semiconductor company and a solar panel production company in Laguna before deciding to establish Solar Solutions with other Ateneo alumni, coming from various disciplines such as mathematics, engineering, entrepreneurship, information technology, finance and law.
Guerrero now pursues a doctorate degree in microgrid power system, which refers to an energy system consisting of distributed energy sources and loads capable of operating in parallel with, or independently from, the main power grid.
Aside from Guerrero, other people behind Solar Solutions are Raffy Concepcion, an ECE graduate who is in charge of communications and marketing; Ken Abellanosa, the head engineer; Eric Santillan, the leadership consultant; Reese Macabebe who holds a PhD in Physics; Rey Barcelon who is in charge of finance and administrative operations; Aison Garcia, the general manager and legal officer; Javy Alpasa, a Jesuit priest and social entrepreneur; Vince Rapisura, a microfinance expert; and Rick Laping, a community development specialist.
“We are alumni of Ateneo. We have come from different background. We have decided to go full blast with Solar Solutions,” says Guerrero.
“We are basically a system integrator. We get the components such as solar panels, batteries and the lamps, and we design the system appropriate for the needs of the community and the needs of the individual,” he says.
Solar Solutions is one of the three groups that won the six-month fellowship program and P800,000 in financial support from Impact Hub Manila, World Wide Fund for Nature, Peace and Equity Foundation and the Asian Development Bank. Other awardees are HiGi Energy Pte. Ltd. and Cleverheat Thermal Technologies Inc.
Solar Solutions presented the concept of Solar Sari Sari Store during the competition. “What we presented is an energy solution. We designed the system such that it could be easily deployed to off-grid communities. It requires less maintenance, because it is very far to reach. We have to make sure that maintenance is easy and affordable,” says Guerrero.
“We are able to do that by partnering with local organizations and NGOs like WWF. They know the people on the ground and they know how the community works. We become their technical partner,” says Guerrero.
In a television interview, Concepcion who is in charge of Solar Sari Sari Store says it is actually a solar station—a 20-foot container, with solar panels on top and windows to showcase the products inside such as solar lanterns. “We also have mobile chargers, water purifiers,” says Concepcion.
“We are trying to make it more sustainable, cheaper to produce and we are trying to streamline all the technologies that go into it,” he says.
Guerrero says the station is like a small store that distributes solar products and solutions such as a drinking water system powered by solar energy, solar-powered cellphone chargers, portable solar lamps and 50-watt solar power systems.
“Instead of them using kerosene and candles, they can avail of our solar lamp that is charged through our station and they can rent it for a minimal fee,” he says, referring to customers of Solar Sari Sari Store.
Guerrero says the cash prize from Impact Hub will help the enterprise expand its portfolio of products and services.
“We are trying to scale up, so that more communities can avail of our solutions. We are getting investors… Aside from communities, we also offer commercial installations,” he says.
Guerrero believes in the potential of solar energy as a major source of power. “Basically, we are transitioning from the conventional and dirty source of energy and solar is one of the renewable energy that is available,” he says.
“We reached grid parity. It means the cost of renewable or solar energy is the same, or even cheaper than what we are getting right now,” he says.