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Solar brings light & hope to Haiti after earthquake catastrophically destroyed infrastructure.. Nation rebuilding

By WcP.Scientific.Mind - Posted on 03 February 2010

Top left: Siene Noel lost five of her six children. Right: Dr. Dan Purdim from the MO-1 DMAT, holds possibly ill baby.

Presidential Palace in capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, before and after the earthquake: originally a 2-story structure, the 2nd story completely collapsed

Sol, Inc & local Haiti team erect solar powered light. The quake cut electricity to most of Haiti's capital.


Port-au-Prince, capital of Haiti, was catastrophically affected by the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake

Port-au-Prince is the capital and largest city of the Caribbean nation of Haiti. The city faces the Gulf of Mexico. The bay on which the city lies, which acts as a natural harbor, has sustained economic activity since the civilizations of the Arawaks. It was first incorporated under the colonial rule of the French, in 1749, and has been Haiti's largest metropolis since then. The city's layout is similar to that of an amphitheatre; commercial districts are near the water, while residential neighborhoods are located on the hills above. Port-au-Prince was catastrophically affected by the 12 January 2010 earthquake, with large numbers of structures damaged or destroyed. Haitian officials estimate that thousands have been killed – estimates go up to 200,000 deaths; with a confirmed death toll of 150,000.

Top: Haitians line up for food and a portable radio in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Center: Haitians crowd a ship leaving the earthquake-ravaged city of Port-au-Prince for other parts in Haiti. Bottom: An aerial view of makeshift tents in Port-au-Prince.

Donated to Water Missions International (WMI), the solar modules will power ten pump stations in the Haitian capital of Port-Au-Prince, providing up to 175,000 survivors with clean, safe water.

SolarWorld is donating the 10 kilowatts of solar equipment through its Solar2World programme, which provides equipment for off-grid rural solar projects in the developing world. In the summer of 2009, the Solar2World programme gave more than 10 kilowatts in modules to a clinic in a remote Haitian village.

Co-founder of SunEnergy Power International, Walt Ratterman, directed the clinic project and has been missing in Haiti since the earthquake on 12 Jan. Jean Jacques Sylvain, principal of longtime SolarWorld distributor Green Energy Solutions, is helping to search for him. US coordinator of the Solar2World programme and marketing manager for SolarWorld, Paul Dailey said: “Walt is a hero to many of us in the solar industry. We're all pulling for him and praying he is found soon.”

“Fuel shortages in Haiti are causing major roadblocks in providing aid,” says George C. Greene IV, WMI Vice President for International Programmes. “Through SolarWorld’s assistance, WMI continues to place solar-powered water systems in the neediest areas.”

Jeune Joseph Andre Ronaid prays at the remains of Sacre Couer church in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. ‘The church is not collapsed, it is within us,’ he said.

Solar-powered equipment for water, lighting, and communications is being sent to Haiti as part of the reconstruction efforts following the devastating earthquake.

Fort Pierce, Fla.-based manufacturer Sol on Tuesday said it shipped 15 of its solar streetlights to Haiti as part of an aid mission. With hospitals operating without power, the lighting can be used to extend the time that doctors can treat the wounded, company executives told WPTV. Sol intends to donate another 100 of its streetlights, which have a small solar panel mounted above an LED lamp, but it has not yet connected with an organization with the space to carry the equipment.

The difficulty of getting power is a problem for cell phone communications, which have been working intermittently in Port-au-Prince. Dutch company Intivation earlier this week said that it is donating 1,000 solar-powered mobile phones meant for the Port-au-Prince area in Haiti. The phones, which have been offered by Caribbean carrier Digicel for over a year, have built-in solar panels for charging.

Meanwhile, Solar Ovens International is planning on shipping its solar ovens, insulated boxes with reflective aluminum panels that can be used instead of charcoal, President Paul Munsen tells MSNBC. The company, which is taking donations to purchase solar ovens for Haitians, said it is working with a relief organization to send 270,000 meals and solar ovens next week.

Top left: A firefighter watches from his truck as a blaze consumes a warehouse in downtown Port-au-Prince. Bottom left: Rescuers carry Wismon Exentus Jean Pierre, who was trapped for 11 days in the rubble of the earthquake. Right: 2nd John Hannon, member of the MA-1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team from Boston, carries an injured child at the field hospital in Port-au-Prince. The field hospital includes a surgical response unit.

Solar salvation for Haiti? The Haitian Project

Donors are gearing up to send cell phones, streetlights, water purification systems and even audio Bibles to earthquake-hit Haiti. The bad news is that the country’s power infrastructure is on the ropes, but the good news is that these particular gadgets are solar-powered. Haiti happens to be one of the countries in the world best-suited for solar power.

In the long run, that just might help the country survive. But in the short run, even solar power isn't immune to earthquakes. Over the past week, the people and the pieces of equipment that make the technology work have literally been pulled out of the rubble in Port-au-Prince and its environs.

"It's been quite an emotional roller coaster over the last few days," said Mickey Ingles, the vice president of operations for New Jersey-based Worldwater & Solar Technologies as well as the solar-power consultant for the nonprofit Haitian Project. The project operates Louverture Cleary School, a Catholic boarding school for more than 350 Haitians in a poverty-stricken suburb of Port-au-Prince known as Croix-des-Bouquets.

Top: Haitians line up for food in downtown Port-au-Prince. They had to disperse after people in the front of the line broke through and grabbed all the food being distributed. Bottom: A man sifts through the rubble as he tries to rebuild his life after the earthquake.

The quake caused structural damage on campus. Several students were injured. But today, the school's 22-kilowatt solar-power array is back in working order, and classes have resumed. Louverture Cleary can supply all its own power needs and is even serving as an aid center for the devastated neighborhood. "We have opened up our school to let neighbors in for food, shelter and water," said Tim Scordato, the Haitian Project's office manager in Rockford, Ill.

A solar-powered mobile water purification system, donated last year by the Haitian Project, was pulled from the rubble and put into service at a Red Cross aid station. Every day, the Mobile MaxPure rig is turning 30,000 gallons of contaminated city water into drinkable water, Ingles said. "There are many water purification systems there, but they operate on diesel," Ingles told me. "Right now, diesel is in extremely short supply."

Diesel vs. sunshine
By some accounts, Port-au-Prince currently has only a two-day supply of fuel for generators. "The fuel situation is pretty dire right now," Caroline Hurford, a spokeswoman for the World Food Program, told Reuters. Every gallon of fuel that is saved through solar power can be put to good use elsewhere.

Haiti's latest troubles may make it seem as if the country has been cursed, just like Pat Robertson said. It's the Western Hemisphere's poorest country, crippled by decades of deforestation and soil erosion as well as economic mismanagement and natural disasters. But the country is blessed with sunshine - so much so that it's been on Solar Cookers International's global list of solar-power prospects for years.

Top right: Solar-powered streetlights. Bottom right: A volunteer washes the dust from last week's earthquake in Haiti off a solar array at Louverture Cleary School, north of Port-au-Prince, to maximize power production.

Building Tough Solar Cities

The role of renewables can go far beyond this initial recovery period. People are talking a lot about the possibility that this might be an opportunity to rebuild Haiti on a more solid and equitable footing. Some are more optimistic than others. But if there is one small area where this might be true, it is energy infrastructure. Those solar traffic signals, still cycling through their colors over the streets of Port-au-Prince, are proof of the advantages of doing things differently.

As the rebuilding beings, expanding the role of renewables in Haiti could make it more resistant to the impacts of future natural disasters than many of its African neighbors. It would also be an affordable way to increase access in a country where -- even before the quake -- only 25 percent of the population had regular access to electricity. All cities are vulnerable to the disruption of a centralized energy grid. Think New Orleans, or the 1998 Ice Stom in Quebec that left Canadian families without power for weeks in sub-freezing temperatures.

"Real" Electricity
In some circles there is the perception that solar energy is somehow a second rate power supply. I've heard people refer to grid delivered power as "real" electricity. As we look to a future where extreme weather events are increasingly likely, I'd say in many cases it is actually the other way around. As new electricity systems begin to go up in Haiti, they will help to support the difficult work of recovery and rebuilding.

As well as helping in any way possible, now is a good time for us to start thinking about the ways that renewable energy could make our cities more resilient to similar disasters.


Photos courtesy of, Wikipedia, Carol Guzy - The Washington Post, Nikki Kahn - The Washington Post,, EcoSeed, The Haitian Project, and Sol

Image Gallery: Major earthquake hits Haiti

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