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Is Renewable Energy Haiti's Solution?

By LindsayM

By Lindsay Morris, Associate Editor lindsaym@pennwell.com

In early August, my husband and I traveled to Haiti to help a relief organization build and paint schoolrooms and homes in the Port-au-Prince area. Devastatingly, Haiti was everything we expected it to be. Hundreds of tents line the fence just outside the airport, buildings still lie in ruin 19 months after the earthquake, and a general mood of despondency floods the eyes of the Haitian people.

I make a few observations of the electricity sector while in Haiti. Mission of Hope, the organization we worked with, like many non-profits, hospitals and schools in Haiti, relies on a diesel generator for power. This is due to the insufficiency of national power generation –about 300 MW total, while national demand is approximately 550 MW. This means that even people who have access to electricity usually only get about 10 hours of service each day, according to the World Bank.

The generator at the Mission we stayed at was used primarily to power the on-site clinic. The generator runs only during key hours. Fortunately, it was enough for me to use my fan most of the night (though not enough to keep me from longing for AC).

The majority of ’s installed electric capacity is thermal (about 70 percent), while about 30 percent of the capacity is hydroelectric. However, like any island near the Equator, Haiti has an enormous potential for wind and solar power. Haiti’s Wind Potential Atlas shows a potential capacity of 50 MW in the area of Lake Azueï alone, which is near Port-au-Prince. And while investments in large-scale PV projects would be unlikely in Haiti, rural projects could apply off-grid solar technology. Mission of Hope is currently considering an off-grid wind project, which could save the organization $15,000 a month.

While possibilities for renewable energy opportunities in Haiti are abundant, installations would likely need to come at the expense of generous non-profit organizations or power companies. Traditionally, there has been a culture of non-payment for power services, high consumer tariffs and a lack of support from authorities to repel corruption and fraud. These problems have resulted in a lack of investment in the Haitian power industry.

However, North American charities or power companies could make a huge difference in Haiti by investing in off-grid renewable projects. Well-constructed solar and wind projects could power entire communities and bring about an economic push that Haiti has needed for a long time – even before the earthquake.

What is your company doing to help countries like Haiti, and what are your ideas for bringing power to undeveloped nations?

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