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Solar lights the way for a new Haiti

Posted by Lindy on December 9, 2010


Before the January 12th earthquake, only 12.5% of the population was joined to the electricity grid. After the quake, diesel fuel was more difficult to get and more expensive. Much of Haiti was left in darkness. But solar power could be the light at the end of the tunnel.

Thousands of LED handheld lanterns have been issued, together with solar district lighting. Solar cookers and solar purification plants are now being shipped in. The latter are even more important since the outbreak of cholera, which has not been seen in Haiti for several generations.

But this solar input is not just as a result of the quake. As early as 2008, researchers were in Haiti to see what sources of power, that could be provided by solar, would best meet the needs of the people there.

Dan Schnitzer conducted surveys asking residents what kind of help they most wanted in conquering their energy woes. He found that the average Haitian family spent 10 percent of its annual $1,200 income on kerosene and candles and another 5 percent on charging up their cell phones at 25 cents a pop.

He presented them with a list of 10 technologies including solar-powered streetlights and community facilities, biofuel systems, home solar systems and portable solar lights. More than 75 percent of the 300 or more Haitians he surveyed said they were most interested in home solar systems and portable solar-powered lights.

Schnitzer and his partners decided to open a retail store selling home solar systems for $240 that would provide a basic home with energy-efficient lighting and enough extra power to charge a cell phone. The $240 kits are complete with installation, wires, battery back-up and light bulbs, he said. The store opened in July 2010.

But this work was quickly overtaken once it had been realized how many women and children were at risk of attack in the camps, largely due to lack of light. So solar lights for the tents and hand held torches became a priority for many NGOs.


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