IEEE Humanitarian Technology Challenge delivers solar power to villages in Haiti

27 July 2011 – This year, the IEEE Humanitarian Technology Challenge (HTC) oversaw a program in which solar-based “Sunblazer” generating stations were installed in rural Haitian villages that now deliver basic electricity to over 1,400 people. Under the program, six villages each received a 1.5 kilowatt Sunblazer station capable of charging 40 small portable batteries for distribution to residences and businesses for local use. When the batteries lose power, they are returned for re-charging. The program’s benefits align with a core concept of the IEEE HTC, which is to create a technical solution to a problem that can be adopted locally through a sustainable business model.

To work, the program aligns with a franchise business model in which local entrepreneurs contract equipment including the portable home battery packs and light-emitting diode (LED) home lighting kits. The business owner pays a fixed monthly fee to the holding company, Sirona-Haiti, to cover all equipment servicing and maintenance as well as to train operators and finance new equipment. The home battery packs are leased to the homeowners who pay a deposit and a monthly fee. Approximately half the profits go to the business owner(s). For the immediate future, a plan to manufacture nine new pilot stations in Haiti is currently underway. The stations will be donated to provide a convincing test of the business model necessary for Sirona-Haiti to raise venture capital for in-country production. The long-range goal is to manufacture approximately 4,500 stations over the next five years to deliver electricity to at least a million people and create a significant number of new jobs in the country.

CSI is a non-profit member group of the IEEE Power and Energy Society and was introduced as part of the joint IEEE and HTC. The IEEE Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society has been a strong financial sponsor of the CSI efforts in Haiti. The IEEE Foundation also contributed. To read more about CSI activities, visit the Community Solutions Initiative blog.

The IEEE Humanitarian Technology Challenge, or HTC, is a part of Engineering for Change, in which IEEE is a supporter. Engineering for Change provides a forum to connect, collaborate, solve challenges and share knowledge among a growing community of engineers, technologists, social scientists, NGOs, local governments and community advocates, who are dedicated to improving the quality of life all over the world.