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Chargin’ up!

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Looks like there’s trouble in River City.  Or should I say trouble in the City on the Gulf.  The Gulf of Davao.  Of course, what I mean is that there is trouble looming in Davao City.

What kind of trouble?  Well, let’s go back to 2008 and start at the beginning, where any good story should start.

Visa Assistance

In 2008, the island of Mindanao experienced some serious power shortages.  Lots of cities in Mindanao experienced brownouts for 4 to 6 hours in 2008.  Davao had some brownouts too, daily brownouts in fact.  However, we were spared those long brownouts, because Davao City has a plant that can generate it’s own electricity with diesel.  That plant was able to generate enough electricity so that Davao only had one hour brownouts for the most part in 2008, with an occasional 2 hour brownout from time to time.

In the Dark

In the Dark

In the years since 2008, though, Davao has had very few brownouts at all.  From time to time we might have a brownout that lasted 5 minutes to 15 minutes, but nothing worse than that.  Still, even those short brownouts were only a few times per year.  At this same time, some other places in Mindanao were suffering all these years with brownouts of as long as 12 hours, and they were daily.  We were truly blessed here in Davao.

This year, though, 2014, has been a bit different.  For a month or two now, we have been having rotating brownouts in Davao again.  Generally, here in our neighborhood we have been having 1 hour brownouts twice or sometimes three times in a week.  These brownouts didn’t really bother me much, I mean one hour is a pretty short time.  Usually, I would just take a break from my work, go sit with the kids out on the patio enjoying a cool breeze and relaxing.  In no time, the power was back on.

A long brownout

Yesterday morning (Wednesday, I am writing this on Thursday), we had a long brownout of 3 hours and 15 minutes.  That was a long one, and quite uncomfortable.  Hot, hot, hot.  It also really interrupted my work day.

The big surprise, though, came later in the day yesterday.  Davao Light and Power, our local electric company, announced that starting immediately we can expect brownouts of up to 6 hours per day here in Davao.  The rest of the island is having it even worse than that.

The announcement said that we can expect to start having two brownouts per day.  One brownout will come during the daylight hours, 4 hours.  The second brownout will be at night, after dark, and that one will be 2 hours.  Wow, 6 hours per day!  What an inconvenience.

Why?

The reason that we will be experiencing such long brownouts was given, and they said it was because the power situation in Mindanao had reached critical levels.  Most of our electricity comes from hydro resources over around the Iligan area, throughout Lanao really.  They said that there is so little water in the rivers and reservoirs that there is just not enough capacity to generate electricity like there should be.  Because it is at this level, without these long brownouts in Davao, the entire Mindanao grid could collapse.  Davao, of course, is the biggest user of electricity in Mindanao, given the size of the city.

What will we do?

Diesel Generating Plant

Diesel Generating Plant

Feyma and I talked about this last night, and decided that we have to take steps to make our household work during this time of electrical shortage.  We need to plan for these long brownouts and do things to help our family function and be as comfortable as possible.

We have some things that we can still use due to battery power.

  1. We recently got a new type of Internet, LTE, which operates off of the cellular network.  It still works fine when there is no electricity, as I have a battery operated LTE WiFi Router.  So, we can still work on the Internet even when it is brownout.  We can do this using the LTE for the connection, either our cellular phones or laptop computers on battery power.
  2. For my LTE WiFi Router, I have two batteries, so I make sure that when we do have power, both batteries get a full charge in order to maintain power as long as possible when on batteries.  Each battery should last about 5 hours, so we can stay online for up to 10 hours using battery power.
  3. I have a “power bank” as well, that allows me to use an external batter to charge and use our cellphones and some other battery powered items. Of course, when there is power it is also important to make sure that the power bank gets charged up for use when the power goes out.

Other items, non-battery, that need to be ready for brownout:

  1. Water can be a problem during brownouts.  If the brownout is more than about 30 minutes or so, the water supply will also go out.  This is because for longer brownouts the water company cannot pump the water to keep the pipes full.  So, we have to make sure that we fill containers full of water for use when there is a long brownout.
  2. Generally, we will do anything we can think of to ensure that brownout times are as comfortable as possible.
  3. During brownouts another option is to go to malls and such where they have generators to keep the power on.

Generator?

I know some people are asking why I don’t buy a generator?  Well, in the past I have not done that because when you get 3 or 4 brownouts a year and they are only 5 or 10 minutes each, well, you just don’t need a generator for that.  With these 6 hour brownouts, though, things may change.  It might be time to look into purchasing a generator.  For now, it is my hope that it won’t be necessary.  If we have these long brownouts for only a few weeks or a month, then we can make it through that.  But, if this will be an ongoing problem then getting a generator is something that has to be considered and is even likely.  The only option I can think of would be to move.  But, there are brownouts almost everywhere in the Philippines.  Right now, Mindanao is in bad shape, but who says the Visayas or Luzon won’t be next?

For now, you can bet… we’ll be keeping our batteries charged!

Posted in

Bob Martin

Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur. Bob is an American who lived in Mindanao from 2000 until 2019. Bob has now relocated back to the USA.

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Brent Showtime
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Fix your title Bob

Shelyn Velasco
Guest
Shelyn Velasco

It is really hard when the power is out. Brownout occurs in our city when there is a heavy rain.

Bob Martin
Guest

What do you find wrong with the title?

Tom N
Guest

Out of curiosity, do they have brownouts often in Manila?

And, yes, it is easy to say move. The question becomes, though, move to where?

MindanaoBob
Guest

HI Tom – Manila has brownouts, but not often. That’s because they get all the power allocations leaving other places in the dark! 😉 Such is life.

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

We get 3 or 4 brown outs per year in Manila (maybe more if we are out or asleep) usually not lasting more than 5 minutes. In over six years, we have had three that lasted longer. After typhoon Ondoy, 18 hours. One for three hours when a tree fell on a transformer, and one for an hour…. Not bad for six years

MindanaoBob
Guest

Hi John – Yep, Manila is a totally different situation than anywhere else in the Philippines. 😉 It is sure nice not to have brownouts.. but I still prefer living in Davao. 🙂

scott h
Guest
scott h

in the 18 months we have lived in metro manila I think we have had 1 two hour brown out

MindanaoBob
Guest

As I just told John, the situation in Manila is much different than the rest of the Philippines, and particularly Mindanao. To be honest, I think I’d rather live with 6 hour brownouts than live in Manila, though! I know we all have different preferences, but the place is just not for me. 🙂 No offense intended, just my own choice.

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

One of my neighbors is a senior engineer with San Miguel’s power plant division. His region of responsibility is Mindanao , in the CDO area. He told me that political infighting is a big part of why power in Mindanao does not improve. One mayor wants power, plans are drawn up, and other mayors block it because they want their areas done first. Add in resistance to coal and diesel plants, and you wind up with shortages. San Miguel benefits in the end because the demand, and prices, stay high. Manila does not face this problem since the seat of… Read more »

MindanaoBob
Guest

Possibly, not sure though, it is not what I have heard. Just one new plant will put all of Mindanao in good shape. There is construction in both Davao and GenSan that would solve the problem. Both are coal burning plants with locally sourced coal.

Brent Showtime
Guest

It reads what are we doing to do

Bob Martin
Guest

Ah, OK, for me that is not the title.. the title is “Chargin’ Up”. I see what you mean. Unfortunately, it won’t allow me to edit it now. 🙂

Tim in Tagum City
Guest
Tim in Tagum City

Bob – Your posting was interesting to me in that I have the same experience only amplified from not being closer to Davao. Here in Tagum our power comes from those hydro sources and we have been experiencing some intermittent power problems as of late. Some of them seemingly caused by poorly trained or uncaring electric company employees. I will give you and the other readers an example that happened just the other night. Here in Tagum City it is not uncommon to have rotating brownouts 3-4 days a week for about 2 hours each. However, the other night we… Read more »

MindanaoBob
Guest

Hi Tim – Yes, Tagum is much worse when it comes to brownouts than Davao City. We don’t get those repetitive short brownouts like you mention, not sure what that is all about! Hang in there, hopefully rains will come soon and the brownout situation will mitigate!

TagumCityTim
Guest
TagumCityTim

Bob – Yes, bring on the rain! (although I am not counting on it). Tagum is less severe than Mati, Davao Oriental where I lived for 2 years before moving here to Tagum. The ones I described in my reply to your posting were very unusual and probably caused by poor training or careless behavior rather than any system problem. We’ve been having like every-other-day brownouts recently lasting mostly for about 2-3 hours at a time. The area where I live was on the afternoon (4-6pm) shift until recently when we got shifted to the evening (6-8pm) shift. It’s a… Read more »

MindanaoBob
Guest

Hi Tim – We had a 3 hour 15 minute brownout on Wednesday, that was the longest brownout we have had for many years here in Davao. The last one we had that long, as I recall, was 10 years ago! But, it seems like those types of things could be getting regular! I hpe not.

Sohrab
Guest

Bob The solar energy story needs thought 1 Dont oversize 2 minimize 3 differentiate luxury from essentials (aircon etc) If you get a smaller 600W-2kW UPS you can give automatic switch-over to the phase which services essentials, lights, fans, computers etc. You can power the UPS which houses the charge controller, inverter and automatic change over either by solar or grid. such a unit used commonly in India cost $100-$200 max you can check Alibaba or I can send you links. The solar panels can be sized – 2-4 max will be suffice unless you plan to run to permanently… Read more »

MindanaoBob
Guest

Hi Sohrab – Thanks for the tips. I have to admit, if what you say is accurate for the Philippines, it would be very tempting and nice to have a system using solar to keep the power running! 🙂

Getting plenty of sun on the panels surely would not be a problem here!

Sohrab
Guest

Tell me what you need. The links or the system?
Happy to help anytime Bob 🙂

MindanaoBob
Guest

Thank you, Sohrab. I will be looking into this, and will contact you if needed!

Richard
Guest
Richard

Hmm..Question please?
When you experiance these “brown outs?”…are they instant total blackouts?..total lack of power or just low power jumping up and down?..Does this damage things like computers, refridge, freezers etc? Is there any way to safe-guard the appliances?
I know this is pretty common throughout the islands..I don’t mind the dark so much as having to replace a bunch of stuff every few times…lol
~~Richard

MindanaoBob
Guest

Hi Richard – a “Brownout” in the Philippines is what you and I would call a blackout – a total lack of power. Of course electrical items can be damaged, mostly by a surge in the electricity when power returns. Many items have circuits that cut off the power, like a circuit breaker, for power going to things like air conditioners and such, so that they won’t be damaged. Over the years, I have lost a few things to brownouts, but not as common as one may think.

Richard
Guest
Richard

ok..:)..thanks..do surge protectors help? or effective?..refrigerators are costly…lol..so is my pc for that matter..
Btw..I grew up in rural upstate NY..dirt road..out house the whole 9 yards..we had our own delco plant with wet batteries..I learned to read by kerosene lamp and I kinda miss the soft light and the smell..lol..outage of power will not bother me as much as paying to get my “stuff” replaced..:)

MindanaoBob
Guest

Your average surge suppressor is not big enough to handle a good sized fridge or aircon. For us, we usually unplug our big appliances during brownout, then plug it back in after power us restored.

John Power
Guest
John Power

Unplugging sounds like good advise. I will do that next time.

MindanaoBob
Guest

It is a pretty simple solution, John.

Tim Torres
Guest

Hopefully generators wont be in short supply with the new cicumstances.Hang in there bob.

Bob Martin
Guest

Thanks, Tim. Generators are always in short supply when brownouts get to be a problem! 🙂

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Bob… I can send you a genset fro the factory in Sweden direct. Just need to know LPG, diesel or petrol and how many kW you need. Mindanao Bob discount, of course.

We have an LPG project in Thailand now, 53 kW… Enough to run around 20 window air cons. Cost to run on LPG around p150 / hour.

MindanaoBob
Guest

Hi John – Thanks for your offer, right now I don’t really plan on having a generator. If things get worse, or will be bad for the long term, though, I may reconsider!

Peter Brown
Guest

Does anyone in the Philippines use solar?

Kevin
Guest

I have a working solar panel that I built. I shipped it to Digos, Mindanao in a large balikbayan box. It was a science project that I completed a few years ago to see what the cost would be in building a solar panel. The panels are expensive but you can build one for about $150.00, depending on the parts you buy and if you can solder the connections. I bought all my parts on ebay. We use the panel to run a fan and sometimes for the water pump. You need a deep cycle battery to store the power… Read more »

MindanaoBob
Guest

Hi Kevin – A “deep cycle” battery, would a car battery do the job?

Hope you are doing well, and I hope to see you soon! Ayo ayo!

Kevin
Guest

Hey Bob,
No, a car battery is no good. A car battery is designed to give maximum cranking power in a short time- just to start the car. A golf cart uses a deep cycle battery, this way the power flows out over a long time.

We are all well, thanks. My family now lives in Los Banos. We’ll be down to visit in Mindanao this summer – catch up with you then.

MindanaoBob
Guest

Thanks, for sharing that, Kevin. Just shows how much I know about this sort of thing… I thought a car battery and a golf cart battery would be about the same thing! 🙂

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