Sikat challenge draws out new RE solutions

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COLLEGE students from different schools all over the country have come up with interesting proposals and potential solutions on how to provide underprivileged and off-grid communities not only with electricity but also with other amenities and even livelihood sources.

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Sikat Solar Challenge Foundation Inc. (SSCFI) attracted solutions from 65 talented college students from 12 different schools after it launched late last year a five-month competition.

As part of the five-month competition, participating students tested their respective solutions in poor rural areas not served by the main power grids of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Dubbed the “2015 Sikat Design Challenge,” the SSCFI tilt dared the students to offer the best renewable energy idea or project for practical use in rural areas. Last February 2, SSCFI announced the winners during awarding and pitching ceremonies in Makati.

The grand prize went to Mapua Institute of Technology (Mapua) with its “Rocketstove,” a wood-fired but smokeless cooking stove that also functions as a thermoelectric generator, water distillation system, and charging station. The stove is ideal in remote places with no access to electricity and water.

Moreover, it comes handy during emergencies and disaster situations such as during typhoons when water and power services are disrupted.

Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) and De La Salle University (DLSU) earned runner-up honors with their entries, respectively dubbed “Tanglaw” and “Project FLOWe+”

DLSU’s “Project FLOWe+” is a scalable micro-hydroelectric power plant integrated into so-called aquaponics, a system that combines aquaculture and hydroponics (growing crops not in soil but in water).

Under DLSU’s proposed solution, water assumes several functions: It flows to a micro-hydroelectric power plant then flows to an aquaculture farm. Water and effluents from the aquaculture farm will then provide nutrition to the aquaponics farm.

ADMU’s “Tanglaw” aims to give livelihood support and lighting solution to communities through a barter system. For the residents to have light in their homes, they will collect forest waste (leaves, tree pruning, coconut husks) which they would then turn over to the cooperatives.

In turn, the cooperatives will produce the briquettes for sale in the market. Money earned from this will be used to buy materials for the pico hydroelectric generator. The cooperatives will also set up the pico generators using recycled parts.

Mapua won a P200,000-cash prize while the two runner-ups each received a cash prize of P150,000.

A non-stock, non-profit company, SSCFI launched the competition — the first of a regular annual tilt — as part of its advocacy to promote the development and use of clean and renewable energy (RE) sources.

SSCFI is also the same group that organized support for the country’s solar-powered racing car entries in the biennial World Solar Challenge in Australia. The SSCFI entries were Sinag, Sikat 1 and Sikat 2.

First Gen Corp., along with subsidiary Energy Development Corp. (EDC) and their Lopez Group parent company First Philippine Holdings Corp. (FPH), supports the 2015 Sikat Design Challenge.

First Gen, one of the country’s biggest power producers, maintains a balanced portfolio of power plants, including those running on RE sources such as hydro, geothermal, wind and solar mainly through EDC. All three are Lopez Group companies.

“From solar power solutions to scalable hydro plants, all these ideas prove that innovation and creativity are alive and well in our youth. It’s this spirit of curiosity and creativity that allowed you to take existing clean, low carbon power generation technologies and explore new and practical ways to apply them for the benefit of more Filipinos who reside in areas that are still wanting of the basics in life,” SSCFI Chairman Federico Lopez said during the awarding ceremonies.

Lopez is also the chairman and CEO of FPH, First Gen and EDC.

“We share in the belief of harnessing the power of clean and renewable energy to uplift the lives of the Filipino people.  We certainly look forward to seeing the seeds we’re sowing today bear fruit,” Lopez said.

DLSU tested Project FLOWe+ in Sitio Apia, a hamlet up in the mountains of Antipolo, Rizal, inhabited by 300 poor families.  Mapua tried the Rocketstove for a community of Dumagats in Norzagaray, Bulacan, a remote area that is part of the Sierra Madre mountain range.

“SSCFI launched the competition as it focuses its attention on how RE solutions can uplift lives in rural communities, especially those living without electricity,” said Henry Co, SSCFI vice president.

Participants came from 12 schools, seven of them from Luzon. Aside from the three winners, the Luzon entries included Batangas State University, Bulacan State University (BulSU), Polytechnic University of the Philippines, and University of Santo Tomas (UST).

The five other participating schools were from the Visayas. These are Foundation University, Negros Oriental State University, Silliman University, Saint Paul University, and University of San Carlos. Aside from the grand prize winner and two runners-up, three others made it to the finals. These are BulSU, Siliman University and UST.

On top of the prize money, the grand prize winner also earns a trip to EDC’s hybrid solar and wind farm in Ilocos Norte. Located in the town of Burgos, EDC’s wind farm is the largest in the country with a 150-megawatt installed capacity.

“The three top entries will likewise have the opportunity to further develop their product or service and conduct pilot testing as appropriate,” said Aloysius Santos, executive director of SSCFI and First Gen vice president. “Depending on resources needed, the SSCFI may provide additional support or guidance for the winning teams,” he said.

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