Microgrids Could Solve Haiti’s Electricity Crisis

Solar-based microgrids are seen as the solution for bringing electricity to the 80% of Haiti’s population lacking access.
Published: Tue 18 Nov 2014

Haiti renewable energy company Haiti Energie has partnered with the Florida International University’s (FIU) Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering to develop microgrid and solar systems to power municipalities and small and medium size businesses across the Caribbean nation.

Under the partnership agreement, FIU will provide the engineering design and plan for all projects Haiti Energie takes on.

“One of the greatest challenges facing the country and government of Haiti is the production of electricity,” explains Haiti Energie president Ed Romain. “Up to 80% of the island’s population lack access to electricity today, leaving as many as 8 million people to burn fuels like wood, charcoal and kerosene for heat and light.”

Microgrids for municipalities

Romain envisages the partnership will enable the delivery of microgrids to municipalities, and solar systems to businesses and institutions such as hotels, schools and hospitals.

To this end, a partnership also has been entered into with a (unnamed) solar energy system provider, who will help fund operations and provide batteries, wiring, racking and other equipment.

FIU operates a Smart Grid Test-bed Research Lab focussed on the implementation of “micro-scaled smart grid,” in particular the communications and control issues.

Solar power in Haiti

With such a low level of access solar power is envisaged as a viable solution for electrification. Even in the capital, Port-au-Prince, the grid covers only about 45% of the city’s population.

At over US$0.5/kWh, the cost of electricity in Haiti is over four times as expensive as in much of the United States. Currently, Haiti gets 60% of its electrical energy from imported diesel fuel, most of which comes from Venezuela. Residential and commercial buildings devote more than 40% of their budget to meeting this need. Solar generated electricity should dramatically cut these costs and reduce emissions.

Haiti Energie, which was founded five years ago, has to date installed over 3.5MW of solar-based electricity throughout Haiti. Projects have included the design and installation of solar systems for the Mirebalais Hospital, believed to be the largest solar electric hospital in the world. Haiti Energie has also installed thousands of solar powered streetlights, which has led to a reduction in crime in those areas.

New coops in Haiti

Last year the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) was awarded two contracts to establish two new regional utilities in Haiti.

Under a US$24 million contract from USAID, NRECA International Ltd. is undertaking a three-year electricity distribution pilot project to consolidate an electric distribution system in Caracol with a power generation system to create a regional utility serving the greater Caracol area, including Limonade, Terrier Rouge and Trou de Nord. Once operational, the utility will serve 1,800 consumers in this rural community about 30km east of Cap Haitien, on Haiti’s north coast.

The second was a $2.7 million project to establish a new co-op, named the Coopérative Electrique de l’Arrondissement des Côteaux (CEAC), to serve at least 1,600 residents on Haiti’s south coast. The co-op is interconnecting the towns of Roche-à-Bateau, Coteaux, Damassin and Port-à-Piment, including erecting or upgrading 28km of LV lines and 26km of MV lines, and the installation of a solar-diesel hybrid system with two 200kW diesel generators and over 100kW of solar PV.