April 21, 2016

Sabah Island Police goes Eco-Friendly

Sabah Island Police goes Eco-Friendly

Solar energy is clean and infinitely renewable. Photo Credit: whitesolar.net

Examples of eco-friendliness can at times come from unlikely sources. Like police stations, for instance. The Island Force Operation Base on Mabul Island in Sabah has begun using hybrid green technology to power its premises. As Malaysia’s first police station to have done so, the island’s unit will rely largely on solar energy with projected savings of 75% in electricity costs.

Admittedly, the environmental impact and carbon footprint of a small police station are negligible, and its adoption of solar energy will have little overall effect beyond helping the station save on its electricity bills. Nonetheless, such green initiatives can serve an important purpose – by leading the way for Malaysian institutions to adopt more eco-friendly practices.

The country is situated in the equatorial region, and thus among the natural resources it has plenty of all year round is sunshine with an average solar radiation of 400-600 MJ/m2 per month. Yet for all that, solar energy remains in its infancy around the nation. The government has been planning to develop the sector for years in its quest for a larger share of renewables in the country’s economy, but a drawback in doing so has been the relatively high costs of photovoltaic systems.

The country launched its solar industry only in 2007, although within a few short years it became a regional manufacturing powerhouse with the help of several foreign companies that set up production plants in Malaysia. Why the delay despite the abundance of sunshine, an inexhaustible resource free for the taking? That can be explained by the abundance of other natural resources: oil, gas and coal.

In recent years, however, the steady decline in hydrocarbons reserves has increasingly focused policymakers’ attention to alternative sources of renewable energy. Solar energy reign supreme with a market share of 43%, followed by small hydropower (26%), biomass (26%) and biogas (5%). With lower tariffs and other incentives, the country could reach 23,099MW maximum-demand capacity by 2020.

But a large-scale switch from traditional energy sources to alternative ones is not merely an economic matter; it also requires a change in attitudes, one that appreciates the importance of greener energy sources for the sake of not only Malaysia but the entire planet as well.  Which brings us back to the police station on Palau Mabul: Let it be the first of many government institutions that go green by tapping into the sun.

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