The last time Jay-art Barrete, 16, played with his tamiya, he was still in elementary school.
Last Friday, October 10, he took out his blue-and-yellow mini-four-wheel for a race again.
Things were a bit different now, however. The race was held at his school, the Malinta National High School (MNHS) in Valenzuela City, and was started by the school principal himself. His tamiya was also sporting a new accessory: a solar panel.
So did the five other tamiyas that competed in the race along a 10-meter plastic race track.
The tamiya is a plastic miniature race car from Japan which became popular in the Philippines in the early 2000’s.
At the three participating high schools – MNHS, Lawang Bato National High School (LBNHS), and Valenzuela City School of Mathematics and Science (ValMaSci) – senior students have been outfitting old tamiyas with solar panels, 2 inches-by-4-inches metal plates that convert sunlight into electricity, as Physics class projects.
The race put those solar-powered to test. Barrete’s tamiya won first place in the Speed Category, while that of ValMaSci was deemed most enduring.
The race is the first of its kind in the city but just the latest of the solar energy projects from MNHS principal Cesar Villareal, who has earned the moniker, ‘Solar Man’.
In 2011, Sitero Francisco High School in Barangay Ugong, where Villareal was principal, became the first school in the city to tap solar energy for lighting, with nine of the 65 classrooms lit by solar-powered lamps. The six solar panels had been donated by an international humanitarian organization, Winrock International.
When Villareal was transferred to LBNHS where he also became principal, he also brought along his advocacy. This time, he turned the library into a room fully powered by the sun, from lamps to computers. Another US-based non-government organization, the Foundation for Environmental Education, financed the project, which required five solar panels.
Most suitable energy
Villareal said solar energy is the most suitable energy for a tropical country like the Philippines.
While other sources of renewable energy, such as wind and water, aren’t always available, the sun is ever present, making solar energy the most abundant local renewable energy, he said.
“If every school in the city would have solar panels installed, that would definitely mean huge savings for the government,” said Villareal, adding that the government pays around Php90,000 a month for a public school’s electric bill.
It could also mean revenue for the school, which can supply major power suppliers with the amount of energy solar panels can collect during the summer months when classes are out, Villareal said.
Though government officials have taken notice – then congressional representative and current city mayor REX Gatchalian financed the rest of the components of Sitero Francisco High School’s solar energy system; City Councilor Jennifer Pingree-Esplana and Alay-Buhay Party List Representative Wes Gatchalian funded the race – Villareal is hoping for a large-scale investment on solar energy. The city government could also form a committee on renewable energy, he said.
For the mean time, Villareal, whose interest in solar energy started in high school, is channeling his energies to bringing it mainstream, all the while sparking creativity among the youth.