Rozana Sani talks to a social technopreneur on the prospects of expanding the use of solar technology
NOOR Shahiwan Ismail is a man committed to the environment. He enrolled in the Masters of Environment programme at Universiti Putra Malaysia, which introduced him to environmental policy and management.
“During my student days, I was keen on exploring the uses of solar technology to support the green cause. To understand the technology and its products, with my student status I approached solar industry players to participate in the ecosystem for research purposes. I found that there were vast opportunities in the solar technology industry especially in the application side. From then on I decided I would get involved professionally,” says the 25 year-old.
The pulling factor of solar technology for Shahiwan is that solar energy represents a free energy source. For user application, solar provides mobility in terms of electricity access and has no consequent usage cost.
And now, as CEO of SolarGE, a company specialising in solar energy systems, he is more committed than ever to explore the uses of the technology for commercialisation purposes.
SOLAR ENERGY PROPONENT
“A solar energy solution to solving the problems of access to electricity can have significant impact, especially for the underprivileged and less developed communities,” says Shahiwan.
“The technology is fully ready and commercially feasible. We just need to fill the technology gap and improve the quality of life of consumers. As an example, a single lamp would not be a big deal for many of us. However, for people without electricity, it is invaluable. It can improve their livelihood, health, education and safety. It has already been proven in many situations.”
Through SolarGE, he is putting in product development and marketing efforts based on the technology under the Symbiosis Technology Entrepreneurship Programme, initiated by the Malaysian Technology Development Corporation, to promote commercialisation of public-funded research by a local university.
PROJECTS AND PRODUCTS
According to Shahiwan, his venture into solar energy solutions is divided into two activities — project-based and ready products.
One of the earliest projects Shahiwan did was the development of a solar-powered smart eco restroom at Taman Teknologi Suria, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. The restroom is fully powered by solar energy for lighting and tap water. “It even has an auto music function,” he adds.
Next, Shahiwan and his team installed solar street lighting and premises lighting. Most of the sites are located far from access to electricity such as rural areas and plantations, he says.
“I also did a project for a golf buggy. Solar energy system was added as a secondary source of energy for the buggy to operate longer. All the systems were configured, specifically and efficiently, for each application requested by the clients.”
Other SolarGE’s ongoing projects include a hybrid residential porch, business kiosk, guard house and parking management.
Under the ready product category, Shahiwan lists Suncrox Power Pack as his first.
“It is the perfect alternative for the generator, especially for night market (pasar malam) operators. It consists of a rechargeable battery with solar energy as a primary energy-charging source.
“Street hawkers can charge their power packs during the day and use them later at night market. The battery capacity is matched with the consumption need and it is equipped with efficient DC lights for longer usage. In addition, the solar panel is flexible and much lighter than the conventional crystalline panel. It gives the user more portability. A greener yet cheaper way of producing energy.”
The power pack in the solar-powered bag has been developed to cater to various types of gadget accessories market. Other than lighting, users can also charge their mobile phones, tablets and more with the the power pack.
“My latest product is the Suncrox Bottle Light. This device will fulfil the demand of basic solar light in a more economical way. It is also targeted at street hawkers and caters for the local market and my aim is to market the product to developing countries and for relief missions in crisis-affected countries or disaster-struck areas,” says Shahiwan.
On the commercial front, he is working with SI Global Resources to come up with solar-powered computer bags that can recharge devices. It is currently in the production stage and will be launched soon.
The father of a month-old child is also a strong believer in social entrepreneurship. He is actively promoting solar technology to supplement the need for electricity in developing countries.
Shahiwan was the third runner-up at the Clean Tech Open Idea Global Competition in 2011. Promoted by Clean Tech Silicon Valley, the annual event is the world’s largest clean technology business competition looking for the best clean technology ideas from around the world.
He also won the HSBC Young Entrepreneur Award 2011 (Round Two), which saw full-time graduate and post-graduate students presenting business plans that showcased entrepreneurship and business creativity.