Monday, 21 December 2009

Sikat is RP’s next ‘hot’ thing

Anjo C. Alimario
Business Mirror

THE blazing rays of sun gave Sikat—the Philippines’ second solar-powered car—a perfect run around the SM Mall of Asia grounds showcasing one of the country’s concrete efforts in fighting climate change and, at the same time, to signal to the rest of world to do their share in climate-change mitigation.

Sikat’s launch also marked the anniversary of the Philippine Renewable Energy Act, the first comprehensive legislation in Southeast Asia to promote renewable energy, former Energy secretary Vince Perez, who is also the Philippine Solar Car Challenge Society Inc. (PSCS) special adviser, said.

“We’re blessed not only with sunshine and renewable energy but the fact that we are the leader in fighting climate change and in tapping the potentials of our young Filipinos,” Perez added.

The birth of Sikat was inspired from the success of the country’s first solar car—Sinag—after ranking 12th in the World Solar Car Challenge in Australia besting some of the more experienced participants in the competition.

Students and faculty from the mechanical engineering and electronics and communications engineering departments of the De La Salle University (DLSU)-Manila, in partnership with PSCS, designed and constructed Sikat.

“This is our [DLSU team] way of inspiring other people to invent things that will contribute in lessening the impacts of climate change,” Rachel Pastcoriza, electronics and communications engineering student and lone female driver of Sikat, said.

“There’s so much for the youth to do. I feel proud to be part of history.”

Sikat’s body was made of carbon fiber to make its weight lighter to achieve higher running speed.

Dean Dr. Pag-asa Gaspillo of the DLSU College of Engineering, said the smaller and sleeker Sikat features intensified power, higher level of performance and new aerodynamic properties.

“Sikat shows what the youth can do and points out that there is much to do in the academe in creating more clean-energy sources,” she explained.

The car’s top surface is covered with solar cells provided by Sunpower, the highest-efficiency commercial solar cells in the world, Sunpower director for quality assurance, Jong Jimenez, said.

The commercial solar cells are manufactured in Laguna where millions of solar cells are created and exported to other countries, he added.

The Philippines has a huge potential for tapping solar technology that is one of the cleanest known methods of energy production, the PCSC press release said.

According to the Department of Energy, the country receives an average of 5.1-kilowatt hours of solar radiation per square meter of land each day.

However, it is difficult to mass-produce solar-powered cars due to high upfront cost of manufacturing solar cells, the press release said. There needs to be a large surface area to catch enough sunlight to provide sufficient power to the car.

The goal of the project is to harness the power of sun and convert it to energy that can lessen the country’s dependence on fossil fuels, Ed Chua, PSCS president and Shell country chairman, said.

Moreover, the initiative hopes to generate pride for the Philippines and raise awareness for the vehicle-technology skill and potential in the country, he added.

For its short-term goals, Chua said the project seeks to demonstrate and interest the youth on technology.

According to Chua, Sikat will have a road show which is set to travel across the Philippines next year to show the youth from different universities the possibilities of solar technology.

The event also featured a performance of Final Cut band with the song “Lakbay,” written by Caesar Rosales, which won the first prize in the Sikat songwriting competition. The song encourages the youth to partake in this kind of endeavor of leading the cause in combating climate change.

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