Solar Empowerment Network

For Solar Powered People

Ever since the earthquake in Haiti I’ve been thinking about how we could get some small scale solar empowerment to those poor displaced people. Shanty towns and tent cities are the sad reality of Haiti for the foreseeable future. Nano-scale PV lanterns and small battery charging systems could get them some battery powered lights, radios and cell phones, but they’d have to leave the panels outside in the sun to charge, which would make them easy targets of thieves. A SolarNexus system or micro-grid could power a community of tents for LED lights and cellphone charging but then you’re stringing wires all around and shared batteries will get overused.

Then we had this idea:

The basic concept is to install banks of steel lockers to use as central community charging stations. Every locker would have AC and/or DC charging receptacles inside and they’d be rented by the week. It could provide basic electrical services in the form of battery charging for portable lights, mobile phones and small electronic devices like radios. The lockers would also be a secure place to store small valuables and money. Limiting the access to electricity to small battery charging only would keep the overall energy demand low and easily supplied by a modest scale off-grid system. If we figure 5 Watts of PV per locker (roughly 25 Watt-Hours of battery charging per day) a 400 Watt SolarNexus system could run 80 lockers.

The electric grid in Haiti is almost beyond repair. Check out this recent Washington Post article.

Even before the earthquake their grid was falling apart and continually overused with less than half of the people connected to it actually paying for their electricity. Maybe its time to re-think the grid for places like Haiti. Battery powered devices can provide many of the basic energy services we need from electricity. Central battery charging kiosks run as businesses could be a new industry and engine of economic development. Multi-scale distributed RE could re-power Haiti in a cleaner and better way.

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