First Solar-Powered Golf Cart Launched


The Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), in association with the University of Technology (UTech), launched the island’s first solar-powered golf cart at the university’s Old Hope Road campus, today (June 13).
A brainchild of six final year mechanical engineering students, supervised by Dr. Noel Brown, a lecturer at the School of Engineering, UTech, the project began in 2005 when the students evaluated the feasibility of using solar energy to power golf carts on local courses. In 2006, the ‘Solcar’ project was passed on to a new team of four final year mechanical engineering students, who completed the work.
The result is a battery-powered golf cart, which Acting Project Supervisor, UTech, Brian Silvera said was taken from the scrap yard of the Constant Spring Golf Club, repaired, and retrofitted to become the first solar-powered golf cart in the island. He informed that the cart had undergone preliminary performance testing on the campus, by the students, and that the next phase would be the use of the cart at the Constant Spring Golf Club, where its performance would be monitored to see the feasibility of widespread use of such carts on other golf courses. Mr. Silvera noted that this innovation could provide the tourism industry with a means of utilizing one of the country’s natural resources.
In his address, Minister of Industry, Technology, Energy and Commerce, Phillip Paulwell said the golf cart venture, which is aimed at eliminating the use of gasoline in powering carts, “is a project which goes beyond its practical application. It may be argued that the use of the golf carts in Jamaica is very limited, but given the potential of sports tourism and golfing in particular, significant savings can be realized.”
He said the concept went beyond the commercial impact, as the promotion of solar technology and its use deserved the attention and national focus that the project would generate. “Importantly also, the spirit of enquiry and the culture of innovation are factors that are critical to the creation of new production processes and products,” he said. Congratulating the engineering students, Mr. Paulwell commended the PCJ for the collaboration and urged the private sector to partner with the Government in support of energy-related projects such as this.
Meanwhile, in her remarks, Group Managing Director of the PCJ, Dr. Ruth Potopsingh said the PCJ was proud of its partnership with UTech in this groundbreaking initiative. “We see this initiative as an important step in our on-going quest to develop alternative and renewable sources of energy and the implications of this project far outweighs the scope of the cart alone,” she said.
The Managing Director said the timing of the initiative was appropriate and its potential application in industry and other sectors was vast. “This is indicative of the type of creative thought and application that is needed to break our dependence on fossil fuels and contribute to the kind of practical collaboration between the technological and the scientific community, and the State,” she added.
Dr. Potopsingh pointed out that with Jamaica’s abundance of solar energy, there were few excuses for not making use of this ample resource. She noted that the PCJ had been at the forefront of the drive to develop alternative sources of energy, through initiatives such as the public sector energy efficiency programme, geared at reducing demand and promoting conservation in state institutions, such as hospitals.
Members of the ‘Solcar’ team include, Mark Dennis, who is now employed to the PCJ; Ray Christian, Tamica Hall, Cecil Maxwell, Robert Rodney, and Tanisha Wallace (2005/06); and Robert Burnett (team leader), Donald Beaufort, Leon Reid, and Derrick Solay (2006/07).

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