IEEE Haiti Relief Effort
There are currently 1.2 billion people in the world who have no access to electricity (International Energy Agency and the World Bank, 2013). There are another 2.3 billion people who have very limited access to power. Access to electricity is one of the most important steps in shifting communities from abject poverty to self-sustainability.
In 2011, Sirona Cares teamed up with Nextek and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) to come up with a solution for simple power distribution in these rural areas that do not have access to power. Many Haitians are paying a significant portion of their income for kerosene, a major source of power in Haiti.
Sirona Cares , a non-profit dedicated to bringing sustainable energy and economies to rural communities in Haiti, teamed up with Nextek Power Systems and the IEEE to design, manufacture, and deploy mobile solar energy units. The original units designed and manufactured by Nextek were called SunBlazers. Nextek has since developed a newer model: the ‘STAR’ that serves as a community charging station or dedicated power source.
The STAR (Stationary or Transportable Available Resource) is designed to serve as a community charging station for people who live without power. It is capable of providing power for light for as many as 80 homes at a time. Many of the recipients have never had electrical power in their homes.
This simple solution, consisting of a deployable solar array, battery charging station, portable battery packs and LED lights, makes it possible to power homes and small businesses anywhere, regardless of proximity to power utilities or other sources. Community members charge their battery packs at the station and carry the packs back to their home where they can be hooked up to lights and other small, electrical loads. Each battery kit comes with two 4-watt LED lights and is designed for a typical Haitian home. In addition to providing light, the batteries charge radios and cellphones.
Development of systems like the STAR trailer is critical to the economic and cultural development of the 3.5 billion people who have little or no access electrical power today.
The deployed trailers have been a huge success in Haiti. Nearly 1200 Haitian home owners power their lights and electronics from 15 SunBlazer trailers as of 2012. Customers pay $6.25 (USD) per month to use the home battery kits, roughly 10% of their average monthly income. For the 1st pilot that was deployed in 2011, all 240 customers have paid every month with no missed payments.
The equipment has operated reliably and there are long waiting lists for future units. When asked about his thoughts on the charging station, a community leader replied:
“The program is more than important. Those that have one want to have two...there is a lot of demand. [The children at the orphanage] don’t’ want to go to bed because they have light so they can read.” – Pastor Honore