SOLAR POWER IN HAITI - A PART OF THE SOLUTION
As an IUG member, I applied and was chosen to participate in an IUG (Engineers without borders, Norway chapter) collaboration with J/P Haitian Relief Organization, (J/P HRO) to look into the application of solar energy in their construction and retrofit building projects in Port-au-Prince. For more information on the Building project at J/P HRO, check this website.
I am a mechanical engineering student currently working on finishing my master thesis on Solar Energy in the form of heat for cooking. For me this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
My fellow traveller and mentor for the trip is Tommy Fernandes. He started his career with solar energy at the Renewable Energy Corporation ASA (REC ASA). He and two colleagues later founded the organization Solar Power Unlimited in 2009 where he has executed many different projects on solar energy. He is now project and partner development coordinator at IUG.
Together with the support and knowledge of the J/P HRO staff, and the experience of Tommy, I will do my best to contribute to the project.
Here you can check out J/P HROs website (or copy the link http://jphro.org/).
BACKGROUND OF J/P HRO
At the onset of the earthquake emergency response, J/P HRO became the official camp manager of one of the largest camps for earthquake survivors who had lost their homes. Soon after J/P HRO establishedan Engineering and Construction department for new construction and removal of rubble from all the collapsed buildings, and demolishment of unsecure buildings.
Now the Engineeringand Construction department focuses on long-term sustainable solutions for housing for the families living in the camp, either by retrofitting houses or building new houses that both can withstand earthquakes and hurricanes. The organization is taking a holistic approach, which is the general strategy of most Non Governmental Organizations (NGO's) here in Port-au-Prince. J/P HRO’s Engineering and Construction efforts are largely focused in Delmas 32, a densely populated neighbourhood in the commune Delmas of approximately 90,000 people adjacent to the Pétionville and Cité Maxo camps, which are managed by J/P HRO
The Pétionville Camp, together with the neighbouring Cité Maxo Camp, housed approximately 60,000 individuals at their peak in 2010. Today, 86 % of camp families have returned to their communities. As of August 2013, less than 8,000 displaced individuals remain. J/P HRO has committed to assisting all the remaining camp residents in the transition to safe, long-term housing in the surrounding neighbourhoods. In 2013, J/P HRO programs will continue redevelopment and reconstruction projects in adjoining neighbourhoods, such as Delmas 32, providing displaced families and local residents a thriving, prosperous and secure community where they can return and begin to rebuild their lives.
Mme Jean Gerald:
When my house was damaged, I could not stay in it. Everyone who had this problem was struggling to find help to fix their home. But J/P HRO came and helped me to make repairs. During the construction, we homeowners were very involved: J/P held training sessions for us, and showed us how to work and what materials to work with. Now that the repairs are finished, I have a good and nice home. I live with my husband and children. I’m still working on finishing small additions myself. I can truthfully say that I feel safe in the house, even when it’s raining. I don’t fear being in my home if another earthquake happens. I sleep well.
As a part of the program, we were also given a starter fund to begin a small enterprise. I had a few orders, so I purchased fabric and started selling clothes I’d made. I make clothes for my children as well. I learned to do this a long time ago, in 1978. I love what I’m doing, and it helps when people know you.
BACKGROUND FOR THE TRIP
The objective of the trip is to try and map the needs of the people, and find needs that can be solved in one or more ways using solar power for electricity in a sustainable and affordable manner.
PRIOR TO THE TRIP
Before the trip had started, it was hard to get a feel of what exactly we would be working on in the project at hand. Although the planning to participate in Haiti had been maturing for some time, the choice of me as the participating IUG member happened very quickly. It was very hectic for me as I was extremely busy working on my thesis, and having to prepare for the trip to Haiti. I didn't have many expectations to what the work would be like, and I didn't know much about life in Haiti either. All I know is that it is very important for us to get an understanding of how the communities live together, and the culture of the Haitians before we can start and come up with solutions. That is one of the things I have been told by others having field experience and also one of the things I have come to learn by being a part of IUG NTNU.
As part of the project work I will get to know the employees of J/P HRO and learn from them. I hope this can be a start of a meaningful and productive partnership between the two organizations. I will try my best to keep you updated on what is going on.
OFF TO HAITI!
I started my journey from Trondheim to Oslo Thursday the 8th of August, and met Tommy the next morning at Gardermoen Airport. All set for the trip, me with a backpack, and him with a suitcase. After a nice lunch at Heathrow, we set off to Miami International Airport, with plenty of time to get to know each other. Luckily Tommy had been advised to take a pit stop in Miami before travelling further to Haiti. After some "Cuban food", and a nice refreshing swim in the hotels pool, I collapsed in my hotel room. Arriving to Port-au-Prince the next day, Saturday afternoon, was not as chaotic as it once was according to Jill Almvang, who normally lives in Oslo and has been working in Haiti since May 2010. But still Tommy, who is originally from India, recognized the "Indian way" of organizing the luggage...
During the weekend we got to settle in to the house where the volunteers and some of the employees live, and also got to see some nice sights of the city. First going up the mountain hill for a beautiful view of the city on Saturday, and getting a swim in the pool of one of the nicer hotels also in the hillside on Sunday. On the way down we drove past the "Route de Delmas", a long boulevard that had recently gotten streetlights all powered by solar panels. This had immediately given results – people feel safer, the small businesses can run for a bit longer after dark, and the criminal factor is getting smaller.
The first day we started off by getting a tour of the office by the volunteer coordinator. Then we had a meeting with the Engineering and Construction department, and got an introduction to the organization and the department. After the meeting, we went straight on a site visit to Delmas 32 with Romelus who knows the community there and Lora and Anna, all from the Engineering and Construction department. This is one of the neighbourhoods where J/P HRO is focusing on retrofitting and reconstructing houses.
The area is truly a great maze of houses and resembles somewhat Brazilian favelas. I have no idea how the driver managed to navigate the narrow streets. First we visited a new school, Frans Beda School, they had retrofitted, and soon found out that there is some electricity available for the people living in the area. But it is not free, although the connection is very unstable. Later we got to see some model houses they had built, and some new and retrofitted houses they had constructed, and got a feel of how the community was built up.
Many businesses have their own diesel generator, either used for main power or backup during blackouts. They also sell electricity from the generators. We hope to suggest some feasible solar powered solution as an alternative to running generators.