The town of Les Anglais, Haiti, is in the final stages of installing a solar-powered microgrid that will provide electricity to 450 homes and businesses. Energy production is scheduled to begin in early February, 2015. The timing is a boon to the residents of Les Anglais, as government-mandated hikes in fuel prices will result in an overall 14.9% increase in the cost of kerosene by March, 2015 (despite falling global oil prices).
The microgrid will impact the community in several ways. It will not only provide consistent, safer, and cheaper electricity to residents (Haitians typically pay $10-30 per month to power kerosene lamps, a large portion of their household income), it will allow the town to develop agricultural processing capabilities. The EarthSpark International project is funded largely by a $1.1-million grant from USAID under the Powering Agriculture: A Grand Challenge for Development program. The program aims to “to identify and support new and sustainable approaches to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy solutions for increasing agriculture productivity and/or value in developing countries.”
“We’ll be working with local entrepreneurs on a facility that will use micro-grid electricity to process breadfruit, which is a nutritious, starchy food. It’s about the size of a cantaloupe and tastes like a potato, and it grows on big trees. It is very prevalent in the area where we work in Haiti, but it’s seasonal and has a shelf life of just three days as an off-the-tree product. Turning it into chips or flour (both of which are delicious) can extend it to six to 18 months,” said EarthSpark president Allison Archambault.
The first of its kind in Haiti (where 75% of the population lacks access to electricity), the new microgrid will generate power almost exclusively from the sun using a photovoltaic array of nearly 100kW capability. It will also feature batteries for storage and a smart meter system that allows pre-pay capability.