Solar Lights Haiti Schools, Powers Businesses

When a devastating 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010 and killed more than 316,000 people, countries around the world sent humanitarian aid and rescue teams. But with much of the impoverished nation left without power, energy companies were busy finding ways to send what they could as well.

Soon after the quake, New Jersey-based NRG Energy—through the Clinton Global Initiative—pledged $1 million for new solar power installations in Haiti as part of an effort to help the country back to its feet. This month, NRG CEO David Crane (far left in the image below) and former President Bill Clinton toured two completed solar projects that are creating green power for a recovering Haiti.

image via NRG Energy

The program is called The Sun Lights the Way: Brightening Boucan Carré and will eventually include solar installations at two fish farms and 20 schools.

“Solar power makes absolutely perfect sense in a country that suffers from low electrification rates, high dependency on fossil fuels and high supply prices,” Crane said in a company statement [PDF].

The first of the completed projects is a 14,490-watt system, made of 63 solar photovolatic (PV) panels and a battery energy storage system, that powers the Lashto Fish Farm 24 hours a day, seven days a week, under normal weather conditions. Caribbean Harvest, which operates the fish hatchery, uses the power to run the fish tank’s air filtration system

The second is a 2,760-watt, 12-panel installation at the Bon Berger du Domond School that also includes a backup battery system for the school’s lights, computers and electric piano. The school is also used for adult literacy classes at night, when almost all of the power comes from power that is stored in the battery system during the day.

By combinining the small-scale solar installations with a battery-storage system, NRG is helping to shift the paradigm of solar power. Indeed, for the schools that benefit from the systems, solar is not an intermittent power source that generates electricity only when the sun is shining but instead is a dependable, around-the-clock power source.

These types of small-scale solar-plus-storage systems, that use either batteries or hydrogen fuel cells, are becoming increasingly popular as both the military and energy companies see the benefit in systems that are not neccesarily grid connected. For the military that might mean powering a battlefield forward base, and for energy companies small scale solar means powering remote villages that are not connected to the grid.

haiti solar NRG Clintonimage via NRG Energy

The Haiti projects were part of a larger effort to revitalize Haiti and were completed with an additional $500,000 pledge from the Cliton Bush Haiti Fund and in partnership with the nonprofit Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) that is dedicated to installing solar in developing countries. The Clinton Foundation has in fact already funded various clean energy and recycling system in Haiti, systems that will become increasingly important as developed countries also begin to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy systems.

EarthSpark’s effort to bring thousands of solar lamps, including 1.8-kilowatt lamps for hospitals, solar home systems and efficient stoves to Haiti after the quake was also aided the Clinton Foundation, which coordinated the distribution.


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