Robyn Miller, Gleaner Writer
With Tropical Storm Ernesto threatening to put a damper on Independence celebrations two weeks ago, Olympic- and Jubilee-frenzied Jamaicans were sent scurrying to the supermarkets and hardware stores to stock up on food and other supplies.
From where George Douglas sits, those preparations could be significantly boosted if more Jamaicans had their own emergency power system utilising solar energy.
Douglas is aware of the high cost of acquiring a solar system. "Solar energy is very expensive, (and) most Jamaicans don't have money like that," he said.
That is why the inventor has introduced the GDI Solar Power Box. At $65,000, he says it is very affordable and could make a world of difference during the testy hurricane season.
The GDI system includes an easy-to-carry- around power box, which has the capacity to light up a 65 watt 110 volt/50 htz LED lamp. It is completed by solar panels.
Said to be a dependable emergency unit, Douglas told The Gleaner the GDI Solar Power Box is good for operating a television set, radio, fan, blender and other small appliances including an iron (though with limited capacity). It can also "bring a kettle to boil" with water for your favourite tea during the storm as well as power up security lighting for the home.
The project, according to Douglas, has had the backing of the Scientific Research Council (SRC), which "is assisting with research, materials and the patent". The council had previously lent technical support on Douglas' DBH Genesis Solar 3-Phase Pump which powers up an entire household.
At the same time, Douglas, who named Tropical Battery as one of the few entities to have thrown their support behind him by providing him with batteries, is lamenting the lack of support for persons like himself who, he says, have innovative ideas that can help the country.
"Technology has no limit. We [Jamaica] don't have to pay the kind of money we are paying in oil bill right now," he said of the general lack of regard for home-grown inventors.
Protégés, brothers Duane and Demar Thomas agree.
Duane, who assists with the communication side of things as well as building some of the equipment, said it is difficult to pitch their inventions to most persons because of "stereotypes", especially since they do not wear jacket and tie to work.
He is certain, however, that "if persons take [an] interest in this it could help them reduce their energy costs".
For Demar, who recently completed level two mechanics at the Jamaica German Automotive School, the group's inventions are a constant learning curve.
An inventor since he was 10 years old, Douglas' passion grew from hours of watching his technician father and the popular '80s television series Airwolf, on the then JBC TV. A steady diet of aviation books and geographical and scientific channels also helps him "restructure" and make his inventions "more efficient."
He fessed up to The Gleaner: "I used to steal my father's car parts (for my inventions).