The Austrian-based "Energy Globe Foundation" presented the "Biohaus-Stiftung für Umwelt und Gerechtigkeit” (Biohaus Foundation for Environment and Justice) and its Haitian partner organization “Fondation St. Luc” with the national Energy Globe award for their innovative partner project "Solar Smart Grid Tabarre".
St. Luc is the local sister organization of the international children’s aid organization NPH. Together they run a complex of orphanages, schools, disabled facilities, craft businesses, and hospitals for the poor in Tabarre, Haiti. Tabarre is a community on the outskirts of the capital Port-au-Prince, with the only properly functioning children's hospital.
Haiti is prone to earthquakes and mostly depends on highly expensive, imported fossil fuels. It lacks a functioning health system, and even a basic medical care is not available to the population. There are frequent power outages during operations that damage sensitive medical equipment. The facilities require continuous power supply to keep their equipment running, however.
Step by step to Haiti’s largest PV installation
It was in 2011 when St. Luc and NPH started working on a project to ensure there was continuous power supply to the facilities. The project was carried out under the supervision of solar experts from the Biohaus Foundation. Using donated solar components, the first PV system was installed on the roof of the children's hospital in 2013 by the electrician class at St. Luc's own vocational school. With an output of 83 kilowatts, it was one of the largest in the country at that time.
The earthquake emergency hospital, schools, kindergartens, and other nearby building complexes were gradually combined with the children's hospital to establish a power grid or "smart grid”. A battery container now stores the solar energy for the evening hours and the PV system has grown to be the largest one in Haiti with an output of 830 kilowatts.
Meanwhile, a burgeoning market for solar energy is emerging as a key component of Haiti's national energy policy. Following the latest earthquake in 2021, there is an urgent need for off-grid solar systems in the rural areas. Looking at schools, less than 35% of them have access to electricity. It is proposed that all the schools will receive 6 kW PV systems for about 6000 $. A 6 kW PV system usually costs 30,000 $, but the initiative was made possible with the generosity of international solar partners.
Reliable inverters for challenging conditions
KACO new energy contributed a central inverter for the initial project in 2013. Last year, the Germany-based company provided four 125 kW string inverters from its innovative and robust silicon carbide string inverter series. The blueplanet 125 TL3-US is UL-certified and especially suitable for the Haitian environment due to its IP66 protection rating for outdoor use and being resistant to high ambient temperatures.
By now, a trained team is available in Haiti to maintain the smart grid: An own solar company, START, was founded by all partners, and takes care of repairs, replacing components and installing extensions – as well as continuing the lessons in solar energy, mostly via internet from Germany.