Sustainable Energy System in Tabarre

Creating a Solar Smart Grid
May 25, 2017 - Haiti

Solar system installed on the St. Damien Pediatric Hospital roof

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western world. 80% of its 10 million inhabitants live below the poverty line, and 54% live in extreme poverty. This means that they must survive on less than one Euro per day. The situation is particularly dire for children; one child in five in Haiti is undernourished, and one in eleven dies before his or her fifth birthday.

NPH Haiti has been offering Haitian children a home and education since the launching of its first program in Haiti in 1987. Under the leadership of Father Rick Frechette, medical and therapeutic facilities, schools, and homes have been built, and various educational programs have been implemented in the last 26 years.

NPH Haiti and it's sister organization, The St. Luke Foundation for Haiti, are active in different regions of country. The largest complex, which is composed of various medical and social service facilities is located in Tabarre, a suburb east of the capital city in Port-au-Prince. Here, around 300 children and young people live under the care of NPH, and around 2,500 children and young people attend educational institutions. The NPH St. Damien Pediatric Hospital and the St. Luke Foundation Family Hospital, and Francisville production center, have a very high electricity demand and need stable power supply throughout the day and night. As the country does not have a reliable electricity grid, diesel generators are used to provide electricity.

Haiti offers the perfect conditions for solar energy. However, the country has little technical expertise and few resources making it necessary to obtain knowledge and technology from other countries. Therefore a team of German and Haitian solar technicians are working on building a sustainable energy system, or a "solar smart grid" through all NPH and St. Luke facilities in Tabarre, which are part of one electrical network supplied with 650kWp solar energy and a huge battery-storage-system.

As might be expected, this means a high demand for energy. In general, the power supply in the entire country, which is mostly provided by inefficient diesel generators, is very unreliable. Energy costs are very high, and only a small part of the population has access to electricity. Diesel costs, which are linked to the oil price, increase steadily and place enormous pressure on NPH Haiti’s already tight budget, and its work.

In 2011, this led to the develpment of a cooperation arrangement with Biohaus-Stiftung für Umwelt und Gerechtigkeit [Biohaus Foundation for Environment and Justice], Engineers without Borders, Donauer GmbH, and the Haitian company Green Energy Solutions. The partner organizations are renewable energy specialists, and were among the first to recognize the potential of such technologies for the site. With the gradual harnessing of renewable energy sources, NPH Haiti expects to reduce its use of fossil fuels enormously, and to implement a sustainable, ecological, and economically viable management system. Photovoltaics (PV) are especially suitable for contributing to the energy supply in Haiti.

The replacement of fossil fuels and the use of solar energy will reduce pollutant emissions significantly, making an important contribution to the climate-friendly development of the country. With its technical innovations, the "solar smart grid" represents a model project for Haiti and also for other developing countries and can have a major impact on the country.

A 85kW solar energy system was launched as a pilot project at St. Damien Hospital in May 2013, followed by photovoltaic systems for other facilities. The energy control center is based in Francisville and is equipped with a battery system and specific technology to control the load from different sources. An energy control center with innovation technology was set up and a battery storage system was installed. The energy center controls both energy suppliers and consumers, and ensures that or PV-system, or battery, or diesel turns on automatically.

This project implemented cooperation with German and Haitian engineers and development of the local staff and training in solar technology in St. Luke’s vocational school, which will ensure that specialist knowledge and practical ability in this area become firmly established in the country. Therefore, a German development aid worker trained both students and teachers for two years. Their project has already seen much success, and so the team decided to extend the project.

In January 2017, for the first time, all generators were switched off during the day and the system was running on solar energy. So now the programs are running 100% on solar for six to eight hours a day, depending on the direct solar radiation. Our goal is to have a system with 650kwp solar energy and have all programs in Tabarre connected to the grid. So far, we have about 300kwp and we hope to reach the goal of 650kwp by the end of this year, depending on the funding. Once the solar smart grid is fully operational, electricity from diesel generators would not be needed during daytime hours, just a few hours at night. This way, diesel consumption will be cut by more than 50% annually. With the stable power 24/7, there are no more damages to our medical devices and no more power outages during surgeries which could lead to life-threatening consequences.

This project is possible thanks our cooperation with partners and donors such as the NPH offices of Spain, Netherlands, Germany, and USA, in cooperation with Biohaus-foundation, winning the EUROPEAN SOLAR AWARD in 2016, and One World Cooperation. With the money we save, NPH Haiti and the St. Luke Foundation can invest in more humanitarian programs, and more vulnerable children will benefit.

We share quotes with you from the leaders of this project:

Father Rick Frechette: “Power and electricity are a big problem in countries like Haiti. And it is always a challenge to have an alternative to the state power. The regulation of voltage is terrible: peaks and lows - the lows are called groundouts - and the brownouts can burn out all of your equipment. He adds, “the more money we save on diesel, the less pollution we cause in the country, and the less dependent we are on foreign oil, thanks to solar energy."

According to Dr. Jacqueline Gautier, CEO of St. Damien's and National Medical Director at NPH Haiti: “It would be a nightmare if we had power outages in this hospital. The consequences would be a premature baby that gets really hypothermic. Hypothermia in premature babies is not good, and they can die from it. So an incubator has to keep the baby warm because the baby cannot keep its temperature normally. Without electricity we cannot do that."

Willi Ernst, President of Biohaus-foundation and German solar expert: “This project shows the way forward because it includes the latest technologies, combines diesel generators with solar energy and battery storage technology, and promotes the professional training of Haitian solar technicians."

Jean Eddy Charles, graduated from St. Luke Vocational School, shares, “I want to say thank you to St. Luke Foundation and to all the supporters who made it possible to get this professional training. Special thanks to the German solar engineers who provided specific workshops and taught us a lot about innovative technologies. We would have never had a chance like that in other schools. In life, you often need a chance to turn into something good. I am grateful for the chance I got."

Denso Gay, Sonja Smolka and Cassagnol Destine   
Communication Officer; Project Coordination




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