Star8, an Australian-based technology company, is ready to change the energy and electricity demands in Cambodia through solar panel technology, electric cars, and an assortment of products designed to combat the Kingdom’s high cost of power.
Located in Por Sen Chey district, within Phnom Penh’s dusty industrial outskirts, the motley coloured three-story Star8 building is a testament to innovation. Covered with some 1,350 solar glass panels, in an array of opaque colours that include red, blue and yellow, the building is the capital’s first energy independent manufacturing plant. On a sunny day, the building can produce up to 135 kilowatts of electricity in an hour, an ample amount for the assemblage of novel products for commercial and private solar applications.
Inside the showroom, the walls are shelved with products that range from solar tiles and street lights to an energy efficient resin roof system that is imperious to ultra-violet radiation, dampness and temperature extremes.
Whereas on the floor sat large satellite dish-like contraptions that, by triangulating the sun’s rays, can cook food by boiling a pot of water without electricity or fuel.
As Phil Stone, the general manager of the factory, unfurled one of the newest products, a Monoflexi Crystalline mat that would be ideal for camping, he said: “You can charge anything from a cell phone to a computer off of one of these [mats]. These mats are perfect for the remote provinces where the cost of electricity is high and supply unreliable, where people do not have access to the grid and maybe never will.”
“We offer a complete solution for the provincial lifestyle,” he said.
Already some of Star8’s products have been adopted in Cambodia. According to Stone, three local companies have purchased and installed solar street lights, with plans to hopefully line National Roads 2 and 4, including the toll booth areas.
Stone described how with a self contained lithium battery system, and motion detection equipment, the street lights can run for 40 hours on low beam, and 8 hours on high beam.
Behind the showroom, in the clean well lit 10,000 square metres manufacturing plant, a fleet of eight electric powered box trucks had just been assembled. With a white exterior, the trucks were only waiting for the proper logos to be painted on their sides.
“Nestlé wants all of them,” said Stone, adding that with a full load the trucks can save about $2,000 a month in petrol costs. The trucks have a range of 85 to 100 kilometers before needing to have their lithium ion batteries recharged.
“If needed, the trucks can have a small petrol engine installed in the back which would give them a range of 150 kilometers,” said Stone.
Star8, which also sells solar powered tuk-tuks, is gaining creditability in the market through third party endorsement. Lining the factory walls were a handful of delivery trucks painted red with the Coca Cola logo emblazoned on the side.
In the middle of the plant sat Star8’s flagship item - the Star8 Solar Bus which the company has already inked a deal to deliver 50 to Siem Reap early this year.The 20 seat bus is capable of reaching a top speed of 50 kilometers per hour, and has a range of 120 kilometers without the need of stopping to recharge. On the roof of the bus are black flexible solar panels. The flexible copper-backed panels are fabricated in the factory, allowing for applications to fit custom designs. The solar squares are imported from Taiwan and the United States, Stone said.
Stone went on to explain the benefits of having the panels manufactured and distributed here in Cambodia, rather than having them imported in bulk from Chinese manufacturers who he thought of as unreliable.
“Customers don’t have to wait for them to be imported. This allows for the customer to come in and look for themselves,” he said. “You can order the panels as you need them. And also if there is a problem you can phone me up and we can inspect them on site rather than having to ship them away. We have all the technology here to run a diagnostics test,” he said adding that this provides warranty assurance to his customers.
With grand visions of transforming energy consumption in Cambodia, Stone was quick to point out that the company is cautious to not over extend itself. The business model for Star8, like their products, is one of sustainability.
The company believes that if they create the supply, demand will follow because “what we are doing makes commercial sense,” Stone said.
“At the moment the electrical vehicle market is gaining momentum. It won’t be long before commercial and private customers start to see our technology impact their bottom line,” he said. Within four to six weeks, Star8 plans to have their assembly line up and running to turn out solar powered cars.
“The whole package is here and we are fully transparent. What our company wants to do is leave a legacy and provide a new way of life for Cambodians,” he said. “Australian ingenuity has found a lasting home in the Kingdom.