Negros Renewables Revolution brings Solar Power to Pulupandan School

Feature story - August 4, 2002
"And then there was light." Pupils at the Our Lady of Lourdes Academy (OLLA) in the town of Pulupandan, Negros Occidental will finally be able to read and study in a fully lighted library. Thanks to solar panels installed today by local leaders of Pulupandan and activists from the international environmental group Greenpeace. The solar-powered library was switched on by Bishop Vicente Navarra of Negros.

Four 75-watt solar panels were installed to power the newly-constructed OLLA library. The system will supply 100% power to the library. The system's capacity will power 3 large electric ceiling fans, 4 compact flourescent bulbs, and at least 3 computer units.

"We've fired the first shot. The installation of the these solar panels marks a new phase in the campaign against the despised coal-fired power plant being proposed in Pulupandan. The solarization of the Pulupandan school is the first salvo of the Renewables Revolution in Negros," said Athena Ballesteros, campaign director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. The Renewables Revolution campaign, launched yesterday upon the arrival of the Greenpeace ship the MV Arctic Sunrise at BREDCO Port, Bacolod City, aims to demonstrate the viability of renewable energy. "The campaign intends to boost the efforts of the people of Negros to reject fossil fuel projects like coal plants. The people are demanding 100 percent renewable energy to power the province's development. We fully stand behind them," Ballesteros added.

The solar power system will be operated and maintained by the local community. "The systems will entail very minimal costs. Basically, they'll just have to shell out around P400 a month to pay for distilled water needed to maintain the batteries," Ballesteros said.

"The struggle for clean energy in Negros is growing and this struggle enjoys the support of environmentalists from Paris to Manila. These panels signify the viability of renewable energy. But these should also serve as a reminder that the struggle against dirty investors like Alstom continues. Greenpeace joins the people of Negros in kicking Alstom out of their province," said Laetitia DeMarez of Greenpeace France.

Alstom is one of the investors in the proposed coal-fired power station in Pulupandan, Negros. Last week, Greenpeace activists in France built a wall using two tons of coal around the headquarters of Alstom in Paris to protest Alstom's refusal to withdraw from the Pulupandan coal project.

The installation of the solar panels in OLLA was kicked-off by a 300-strong bikers' rally.

Members of the Negros Occidental Cycling Federation (NOCFED) pedalled from Bacolod City, journeying past Bago City, San Enrique and Valladolid towns.

The bike rally ended in Pulupandan with the bikers meeting up with the Greenpeace activists at the Pulupandan pier. The solar panels were loaded off the Arctic Sunrise and transported via Greenpeace inflatable boats to shore. Community members carried the panels from the pier to OLLA.

According to Ballesteros, OLLA was picked for the installation of the solar panels because the school became known as the command center of the Pupupundanons' campaign against the proposed coal plant, which started in 1998. "The school is a big part of the history of the Negros anti-coal struggle. We've been holding our campaign meetings here. We prepared our anti-coal banners and posters here. It was literally the center of the anti-coal resistance," said Elay Jacildo, spokesperson of the People of Pulupandan Against the Coal-fired Power Plant.

The Arctic Sunrise arrived in Manila July 18, kicking off the Philippine leg of the Choose Positive Energy campaign of Greenpeace. Two weeks ago, Greenpeace stormed the country's biggest and most expensive coal-fired power plant in Sual, Pangasinan to denounce continued investments on fossil fuel projects.

The Choose Positive Energy campaign tour is part of Greenpeace's countdown to the Earth Summit to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa next month. Greenpeace is campaigning for governments to commit to renewable energy at the Earth Summit and fulfill the needs of two billion people around the world who currently live without electricity. Greenpeace is likewise asking OECD governments to immediately move 20 percent of their energy investments to renewable energy and phase out financial support to dirty energy sources within five years.