It is hard to believe that I’ve been in Malaysia for a week already. On the other hand, it is hard to believe I’ve only been here a week. It is an unbelievable, dynamic, diverse country. My host, Iwan of Suncrox Solar, and his family have been great hosts. The culture is based on hospitality. In Malaysia, people literally ask “Have you eaten?” instead of “How are you?”(At dinner at Iwan’s mother’s house with his family. After dinner, we celebrated his brother-in-law’s birthday.)
While Iwan has kept our schedule packed with meetings with great, interesting people here, there has been no shortage of great, interesting food, too. Malaysia is a unique mix of cultures — Malay, Chinese, Indian and more — that are blended together and separate at the same time. This mix results in a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
We kicked things off with a meeting at the embassy. The other YSEALI/ICMA fellow in Malaysia, Molly Duplechian, and I met with the cultural affairs officers, economic officer and DEA officer (Molly is in charge of marijuana policy for the city of Denver — quite a different approach here than there!) to discuss the program and get an introduction to Malaysia.
Iwan has done a lot of work with the local universities with solar energy and other renewable energy technologies. We visited a demonstration center (above) that had various PV, solar thermal, wind turbines and passivhaus installations.
Iwan’s former professor, Prof K, is the leading solar researcher in Malaysia. He was able to provide interesting insights into the history and future of the technology in the region.Iwan is a graduate of a entrepreneur training course here at one of the universities. He now serves as a mentor to other budding entrepreneurs. While I was here, they were working on their pitches for a “Shark Tank” like competition.
I had a chance to share a little about my business with the entrepreneurs and learn more about theirs. There were many interesting business ideas — from advanced construction tools, to health care accessories to agricultural innovations.
We also had the chance to meet with some of Iwan’s friends and fellow graduates of the entrepreneur course. In the picture above, this company produces fiber mastic pellets that are used as an additive to asphalt. The pellets come from agricultural waste. They increase the lifespan of the roadway while reducing the bitumen and other non-green materials used in the asphalt. A real win-win. One of the other graduates works for a solar company that specializes in large, off grid installations.
Over the weekend, we took a trip to Penang. We had a chance to visit a Jinko Solar factory, where they make some of the solar panels that we use in the US. We also met one of Iwan’s customers who has a food cart. SunCrox’s solar solution gives him lights, a fan and charger for his phone (pictured above). Check out the video!
Over the weekend, I had a chance to spend time with Iwan’s family. Three adorable boys!
This week, our action pack schedule continues with a meeting with government officials interested in giving villages in Sabah and Sarawak — very remote, undeveloped, areas that have no electrification — the type of small, off-grid systems that SunCrox specializes in. Then we will go visit a remote village in central Malaysia where Iwan has already installed some systems. So I’ll be off the grid for a few days!