Solar Energy Project

May 16, 2012 – Written by Lindsay Martin

Solar EducationA group of students from the OSU Solar Education & Outreach organization spent the week installing lights, solar panels, and a laptop charging station for the XO laptops at a rural Haitian high school just outside of Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti . The first couple of days were spent finding and gathering missing construction supplies due to some unexpected luggage issues. One set of lights that were generously donated to the engineering group in the United States were not allowed to be checked-in upon our departure. Therefore, the students improvised and decided to purchase the lights when we arrived in Haiti. The solar panels that were going to be installed had been shipped to the Haitian airport before the trip, but when we arrived, the airport did not know where the panels were. Fortunately, the engineers were able to locate the panels the next day. Sadly, the luggage that carried the tools for the project was misplaced at the airport in Port-au-Prince. . Again, the students problem-solved and took to heart one of the themes of The Haiti Empowerment Project, "Everything is emergent in Haiti."

After these various setbacks and a couple of days to gather missing materials, the engineering students finally started the construction piece of their project. These setbacks did, however, enable the group to experience even more opportunities than they had planned to. These opportunities included experiencing Haitian culture through spending much more time in the cities and communities than they had expected, connecting with their collaborating Haitian university students on a more personal level, and visiting the Enersa solar manufacturing plant.

The OSU students collaborated with students from University Caraibe on their solar applied project at the high school. The project consisted of various parts including building a wooden box to put around the new batteries, positioning the batteries, wiring the lights, mounting light switches, installing the breaker boxes in the administration building, and ultimately stationing the solar panels on the top of the roof. At the end of the week, they were all able and excited to test the panels and see the very first light turn on in the building.

During the week, some of the students also met with a group of Haitian students from four Haitian universities which resulted in the development of a Haitian-US/OSU Solar Energy student organization. This conversation was filled with ideas on how to educate the people of Haiti about the benefits of solar power, examples of what the OSU solar education group does and stories of how it was founded, and plans for possible solar energy projects in the future. The Haitian students expressed great interest in solar energy, and they pointed out that Haiti would be a perfect area for adopting solar energy because of the high position of the intense sun.

On the last day of the trip, a few of the engineering students headed to Gallette school—the site of last year's solar project. The students wanted to take care of any needed repairs of the lights that the 2011 group installed. All but one light was still in very good shape, and the administrator of the school was happy to reunite with a few familiar faces from the 2011 trip.