Many of the organizations most active in lighting Haiti with solar power were already working in the country, trying to make a difference, even before the disaster.
Dan Schnitzer, co-founder and executive director of EarthSpark International, which has donated more than 5,500 solar lanterns to women and families since the earthquake, took several trips to Haiti before the quakes. He started visiting the country in 2008, trying to find solutions to Haiti’s energy poverty.
He conducted surveys asking residents what kind of help they most wanted in conquering their energy woes.
He found that the average Haitian family spent 10 percent of its annual $1,200 income on kerosene and candles and another 5 percent on charging up their cell phones at 25 cents a pop.
He presented them with a list of 10 technologies including solar-powered streetlights and community facilities, biofuel systems, home solar systems and portable solar lights.
More than 75 percent of the 300 or more Haitians he surveyed said they were most interested in home solar systems and portable solar-powered lights.
Schnitzer finished most of his research in Haiti in the fall of 2009, not long before the earthquake.
The research led Schnitzer and his partners to decide the path forward would be to open a retail store selling home solar systems for $240 that would take a home with no electricity and no pluming, “basically just four walls and a roof,” and provide it with energy-efficient lighting and enough extra power to charge a cell phone every day, Schnitzer said.
The $240 kits are complete with installation, wires, battery back-up and light bulbs, he said.
The retail store took some time to establish, but has been up and running in Les Anglais since July, Schnitzer said. EarthSpark has funded the store so it can provide the kits, education and financing options to those families that want to install systems.
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Image courtesy of World Water & Solar Technologies.