Haiti - Energy : Solar energy arrives in the villages

Haiti - Energy : Solar energy arrives in the villages
Six trailers containing modular photovoltaic generating systems are about to be shipped from Long Island, N.Y., to Haiti. These solar arrays are the product of an IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) humanitarian initiative, in which volunteer work by a handful of dedicated and visionary engineers has been key.

Each village unit of the SunBlazer system destined for Haiti consists of six photovoltaic panels, capable of generating 7 kilowatt-hours of electricity per day and charging a 40 12-Volt lead-acid battery pack. Each pack will service a lighting kit in a home.The modular systems consist largely of off-the-shelf technology provided by two cooperating companies,Nextek Power Systems and Russell Engineering.

Ray Larsen conceived the SunBlazer program in the context of the IEEE Humanitarian Technology Challenge, a three-year initiative that sought to drive development of new technology for reliable electricity, electronic health records, and health data transmission. Toward the end of last year the SunBlazer volunteers obtained $50,000 from the Humanitarian Challenge, and then got $75,000 more from the IEEE Nuclear Plasma and Sciences Society, Larsen's main affiliation. The IEEE Power and Energy Society has provided an additional $20,000 to support related work.

Almost all the money raised to support the solar program--about $125,000 for the initial phase--has gone to purchase parts. Engineering and planning has been done on a pro bono basis. The business plan the volunteers developed through Sirona Cares, an NGO committed to business development in Haiti, is perhaps more innovative than the technology. A private company, Sirona-Haiti, will own all the equipment and franchise it to village entrepreneurs. They will repay the cost of the equipment out of proceeds collected from villagers and raise venture capital to support large-scale production in Haiti.

"Ultimately, Sirona-Haiti's goal is to build up to 4,500 trailers serving a million Haitians in the firsts five years" says Ray Larsen, the father of the program.

ntil SunBlazer becomes self-sustaining as a business, it will continue to rely mainly on contributions from societies and foundations, says Larsen, But it also is happy to receive individual donations.

Article by HL/ HaitiLibre

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