Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte today inaugurated the Philippines first solar module manufacturing facility with an expanded capacity of 800MW at Santo Tomas, Batangas, owned by renewable energy firm Solar Philippines.

Solar Philippines launched the factory as a 200MW plant in March and has since then expanded the facility to 800MW.

Leandro Leviste, founder and CEO of Solar Phippines, told PV Tech that the company already has three OEM agreements with Chinese companies for manufacturing and exporting the majority of the panels to both the US and Europe.

In both these markets there are existing tariffs against imports directly from China.

In addition, the company has also begun selling a small fraction of its panels to local distributors, and solar systems to homes and businesses using a model of zero upfront cost for installation.

The firm entered the PV manufacturing space following the closing of two factories run by US firm SunPower in the Philippines. Back in March a company spokesperson told PV Tech that the factory is managed and staffed by the former team of SunPower Philippines.

Earlier this year, the firm started construction on the first utility-scale solar project to be combined with battery energy storage in the Philippines, with 150MW of PV and a 50MWh battery at Concepcion, Tarlac, using modules from the Batangas factory. Commisioning is due in the next few months.

Leviste added that the firm is working on an off-grid 8MWh energy storage proejct combined with 4MW of solar in the island Mindoro. This solar, diesel and battery micro-grid project will be able to power a whole town and again Leviste believes it will be the largest such project in Asia.

Leviste said the firm is set to install 200MW of solar PV this year, followed by 500MW in 2018, at tariffs as low as US$0.058/kWh, which he claimed could be the lowest in the region. The firm also recently submitted proposals to the country’s utilities for the replacing of plans for large capacities of traditional power generation with 5GW of solar.

In a release, Leviste said: “Filipinos can save 30% on electricity. The average family paying 3,000 pesos will see their bill decrease to 2,000 pesos a month, and now with the latest batteries, entire towns can use solar energy for 24-hours a day.”

Solar Philippines has also announced a new initiative to help communities with poor electricity services to form their own ‘Solar Power Associations’.

At the factory inauguration, president Duterte said: “We in government will continue to support the development of renewable energy. I look forward to the realization of your company’s goal to be the largest exporter of solar panels.”

Leandro Leviste, founder and CEO of Solar Phippines, will be speaking at Solar and Off-Grid Renewables Southeast Asia in Bangkok on 20-21 November this year.

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