Haiti ranks 174 out of 197 countries on access to electricity (World Bank, Access to Electricity Report 2016). As the poorest country in the western hemisphere, the federal government struggles to find reliable and much less environmentally-friendly ways to meet the energy demand in the country. The grid is unstable, unreliable, and only a small percentage of the population use it. Rural areas face even worse access.
We partner with local entrepreneurs to develop programs that provide the necessary resources and skills for Haitians to take ownership of the energy crisis by starting their own solar energy businesses.
To solve Haiti's energy crisis in a locally driven and sustainable way
Much of our project revolves around the development and distribution of a solar-powered device, the Haiti RELAY. The Georgia Tech Haiti Solar Initiative has designed and built an affordable, portable, and easy-to-use solar powered charging and lighting station that includes a small solar panel, a small battery, and a simple charge controller circuit to manage power delivery. It serves as a power station for the most basic energy needs, such as powering LED lights for room lighting, charging phones, and powering other low-power consumer products, such as radios and small fans.
This product was designed with simplicity in mind to allow for utilization by people who have never had access to electricity as well as people and businesses who currently rely on Haiti’s unstable grid or a generator for power. These people and businesses would benefit from reduced operation cost of buying diesel and by improving their businesses and lives by operating longer hours.
The goal of the business team is to harness the power of the Haiti RELAY product coupled with the hard work of Haitian entrepreneurs to result in a sustainable, viable endeavor. Talented local entrepreneurs partner with us to sell the RELAY and launch a sustainable personal business. By testing product feasibility, performing market analysis, developing payment and selling strategies, running pricing and procurement models, and hurdling any other strategic obstacles, we provide a knowledge-driven bridge connecting a great idea and a working business.
The solar installation team focuses on implementing solar-based solutions that directly impact people. Additionally, these installations are used as further training for the Haitian entrepreneurs to advance their knowledge of solar systems and products.
While it is immediately rewarding to provide clean, free electricity to people in Haiti with each instillation, our main goal is to have a lasting impact by empowering local Haitians to install solar systems by themselves. We hope that, with our support, these entrepreneurs will gain a knowledge base that will enable them to shape their country’s energy landscape in a way that is eventually independent of our technical and financial support.
The Solar Sewing Team has worked to design a solar system whose primary use would be to power a sewing machine. The system consists of a 100-watt solar panel, inverter, solar charge controller, and battery, and is able to provide enough power to the sewing machine for it to be used daily for businesses. Additionally, the team is working to increase the versatility of the system so that it could be used to power other appliances.
These solar sewing machines go to Haitian women entrepreneurs who use the product to make textiles for an income. One popular product is cloth diapers. If you would like to learn more about this project and how to contribute, check out the Solar Sewing tab.
The Haiti Solar Project first began in Fall 2015 under the leadership of several electrical engineering graduate students. The primary goal of the original team was to design and install a 7 kilowatt solar energy system on a health compound in Haiti. The team designed a system of solar panels, power electronics, and a battery bank to provide lasting sustainable energy for the health center. This year-long effort cultivated in the successful installation of the solar-panel system by a group of 28 Georgia Tech students.
Following the project installation, the team was challenged to think beyond the original scope of the project and consider how the success of the installation could be scaled up. The students consulted with Georgia Tech alumni and faculty, as well as recruited other students with fresh ideas.
These efforts were met with the collaboration and eventual partnership with the design team of the Haiti RELAY, a portable solar energy product that is ideal for rural communities in Haiti. This partnership resulted in a new name and a new goal!
In May 2018, the GT Haiti Solar initiative distributed 25 RELAYs to local residents of Thoman, Haiti to assess the efficacy of the design in the country as well as the customer needs throughout the community. Moving forward from this pilot install, adaptations and improvements have been made to the product, as the team works tirelessly to deliver the best, most cost-effective product.
Now, the Haiti Solar Initiative is focused on finding a sustainable way to implement and distribute the RELAY throughout Haiti while developing business skills of young entrepreneurs eager to make a difference in their country.