Solar Energy Improves Quality of Education in a Devastated Haiti

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While Haiti continues to recover from the devastating hurricane of 2010, more than 6,000 Haitian students are enjoying an  improved quality of education as a result of a solar energy project that provides the electricity needed to power lights, communication systems, laptop computers and other school equipment in a remote area of the country.

Also, the project has set up a solar irrigation system, or “Solar Market Garden™,” which  will help to increase the production of crops at the Lashto Zanmi Agrikol farm by powering water pumps, while the solar array at the Lashto Fish Farm enables an increase in fish production by powering aerators for six tanks.

The Sun Lights the Way” project is in the Boucan Carré region of Haiti. The program includes the installation of solar electric systems at 20 schools, a fish farm and a drip irrigation system supporting agricultural production throughout Haiti’s Central Plateau region, through collaboration with the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF), a Washington-based  nonprofit organization.

These installations complete NRG’s “The Sun Lights the Way: Brightening Boucan Carré” project, funded by the company’s $1 million commitment made through the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) and an additional $500,000 pledge from the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. The solar irrigation system, or “Solar Market Garden™,” will help to increase the production of crops at the Lashto Zanmi Agrikol farm by powering water pumps, while the solar array at the Lashto Fish Farm enables a dramatic increase in fish production by powering aerators for six tanks.

”This program already is improving the lives of thousands of people who have gained access to the regular supply of electricity for the first time in their lives,” said David Crane, NRG President and CEO. “Our CGI commitment to install solar power at schools and food production facilities in Haiti dovetails with our overall company commitment to respect the environment, help end hunger, and improve access to better educational opportunities. Much work remains to be done in Haiti and we intend to continue to do our part to help.”

“In 2006, 35 percent of women in Haiti had no education whatsoever, and as of 2010, 30 percent of girls ages 15-24 were illiterate,” said Bob Freling, SELF’s Executive Director. “Our goal is to provide the tools necessary to ensure that every child in Haiti has the opportunity to achieve their potential in school; electricity is critical in doing this. Solar energy allows schools that are in very remote locations – in one instance we had to transport solar panels by donkey – to power things like computers that can open up a whole new world of learning opportunities for students.”

SELF first teamed with Partners In Health (PIH) in 2006 to demonstrate how incorporating solar energy systems into their operations would enable the organization to improve the delivery of its health care services while helping to secure critical power loads and reduce fuel-based generator run times at the facilities it operated within. Building upon the initial installations of photovoltaic (PV) systems in Rwanda and Lesotho, the partnership was extended in 2009 to include projects in Haiti.

The project received support from Trina Solar (NYSE: TSL), a leading integrated manufacturer of solar photovoltaic (PV) products, which donated all of the solar panels installed on the schools.

“Trina Solar is proud to be a part of this life-changing project,” said Jifan Gao, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Trina Solar. “Projects and partnerships like these demonstrate the universal power of solar energy to improve people’s lives and to empower communities all over the world.”

NRG is at the forefront of changing how people think about and use energy. A Fortune 500 company, NRG is a pioneer in developing cleaner and smarter energy choices for our customers: whether as one of the largest solar power developers in the country, or by building the first privately funded electric vehicle charging infrastructure or by giving customers the latest smart energy solutions to better manage their energy use. Our diverse power generating facilities can support more than 20 million homes and our retail electricity providers – Reliant, Green Mountain Energy Company and Energy Plus – serve more than two million customers. More information is available at

The Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit whose mission is to implement solar energy solutions to assist those living in energy poverty with economic, education, health and agricultural development. Its Whole Village Development Model takes an innovative approach to designing and implementing integrated solar systems to improve the lives of the 1.5 billion people living in worldwide energy poverty. Since 1990, SELF has completed projects in more than 20 countries, pioneering unique applications of solar power for drip irrigation in Benin, health care in Haiti, telemedicine in the Amazon rainforest, online learning in South Africa, and microenterprise development in Nigeria. Connect with SELF on the Web at; on Twitter @solarfund; and at

Solar energy has received some push back in California because of its dependence on fossil fuels as back up.

“One of the hidden costs of solar and wind power — and a problem the state is not yet prepared to meet — is that wind and solar energy must be backed up by other sources, typically gas-fired generators. As more solar and wind energy generators come online, fulfilling a legal mandate to produce one-third of California's electricity by 2020, the demand will rise for more backup power from fossil fuel plants,” writes the Los Angeles Times.

"The public hears solar is free, wind is free," said Mitchell Weinberg, director of strategic development for Calpine Corp., which owns Delta Energy Center. "But it is a lot more complicated than that."

“Wind and solar energy are called intermittent sources, because the power they produce can suddenly disappear when a cloud bank moves across the Mojave Desert or wind stops blowing through the Tehachapi Mountains. In just half an hour, a thousand megawatts of electricity — the output of a nuclear reactor — can disappear and threaten stability of the grid.

“To avoid that calamity, fossil fuel plants have to be ready to generate electricity in mere seconds. That requires turbines to be hot and spinning, but not producing much electricity until complex data networks detect a sudden drop in the output of renewables. Then, computerized switches are thrown and the turbines roar to life, delivering power just in time to avoid potential blackouts.

"This issue is someplace between a significant concern and a major problem," said electricity system expert Severin Borenstein, a professor at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business. "There is definitely going to be a need for more reserves."

SELF was founded in 1990 by Neville Williams, an award-winning journalist and author (Chasing the Sun: Solar Adventures Around the World ), who had experience actively promoting solar power as a staffer with the U.S. Department of Energy during the Carter administration. By 1997, SELF had established 11 self-sustaining solar energy projects in eleven countries across Asia, Africa, and South America.

In 1997 SELF decided to launch a for-profit affiliate, the Solar Electric Light Company, or SELCO, based in Bangalore, India, whose goal would be to sell solar home systems in the states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Over the past decade, SELCO has sold close to 90,000 solar home systems in India– but still just a drop in the bucket when compared to the two billion people worldwide who don’t have electricity.

Beginning in 2000, SELF embarked on its next generation of projects that would seek to harness solar energy for things such as advancing water pumping and purification, purveying electrification to rural schools and health clinics, providing power to small businesses and micro-enterprises, and facilitating communication access.

Visit your local libraries for these resources:

Solar Energy: Saved by the Sun  DVD
WGBH, (2007).
Solar power is seen as an efficient means of producing energy and a way to combat global warming. This NOVA program profiles scientists, home owners, and others committed to solar power despite the drawbacks; for example, sunshine energy cannot be stored.  Computer graphics demonstrate the technology behind solar energy, and interviewed experts make a strong case for making the switch.  —Excerpt of review by Candace Smith first published December 1, 2007 (Booklist).

Power Trip: From Oil Wells to Solar Cells—Our Ride to the Renewable Future
Amanda Little, (2009).
Greens like author Little want America to wean itself from oil, but rather than shout righteously from the mountaintop, she traveled the fruited plain to meet people immersed in practicalities of transitioning from a carbon- to a renewable-energy economy.  Writing jaunty descriptions of her interviewees, who include T. Boone Pickens, Chevron personnel at a deep-sea oil rig, NASCAR fans, a Kansas farmer, and a California plastic surgeon, Little will appeal to energy-minded readers who don’t want another anti-oil screed or a pro-green policy manual but, rather, a locally oriented, human-interest introduction to businesspeople and government officials busy with doing rather than talking when it comes to the future of energy. — Excerpt of review by Gilbert Taylor first published October 1, 2009 (Booklist).

Solar Revolution: The Economic Transformation of the Global Energy Industry
Bradford, Travis (2006).
In Solar Revolution, fund manager and former corporate buyout specialist Travis Bradford argues - on the basis of standard business and economic forecasting models - that over the next two decades solar energy will increasingly become the best and cheapest choice for most electricity and energy applications. Solar Revolution outlines the path by which the transition to solar technology and sustainable energy practices will occur.

The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power
Daniel Yergin, (1991).

The quest : energy, security and the remaking of the modern world
Daniel Yergin 2011.


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