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Haitian Winter, Part Six: Soaring into the Sun - the Grand New Iron Market

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We are on the catwalks above the wing roofs now, although not all the way to the tops of the minarets.


This is the structural "bed" for the solar panels to sit upon above one wing, the mountains of Haiti looming in the background. There is going to plenty of sunlight to capture up here. Mee and his crew designed all this, laid out and cut the steel, then welded everything into place. This is where they were at this point in the project, just finishing installing all the structural supports for the solar panels, inverters, batteries, controllers and other equipment.

This is a massive solar (photovoltaic) power system by almost any standard, and will be the largest such in Haiti to my knowledge, capable of producing 108,000 Watts, standalone, or 108 KW, with 18 inverters, 18 battery charging controllers, 72 hefty L-16 batteries for the north wing and 56 L-16s for the south wing. Capturing all that energy will be some five hundred and fourteen 210 Watt solar panels.

The solar panels and their steel support structure all have to meet the same stringent standards as the rest of the entire complex against earthquakes and hurricanes. The panels will be able to withstand over 150 mph winds, not a luxury but a necessity on this hurricane-prone island.


More of the roof and solar panel support structure.


Some of the black wrought iron railing for the catwalk between the two wings.

The passageway in the clock tower between the wings will contain all the batteries, panels and other electrical and electronic equipment that will be the "brains" of the energy system:

What you are looking at are vertical, galvanized channels that will hold the panels, controllers and inverters, while behind them, rising from the floor next to the brick wall, are the structural foundations for the batteries.


Here is a closer view of the battery foundations under construction on the opposite wall. Note that there will be three levels of battery banks on each finished assembly. The unit in the foreground looks almost complete, save for cleaning off the welds and priming and painting it. Once the structural work is done, then comes the system installation and all the wiring.

While Andre and I were up here with Dennis, we started to discuss the efficacy of solar power in general in Haiti. Dennis is quite aware that solar power is in the cards for the energy future of the Caribbean. How could it be otherwise? One thing you will never run out of on all these islands is sunlight, and even during the height of the rainy season you will get bursts of intense sunshine between downpours. When you factor in the traditional electrical grid and power plant problems in Haiti and other islands that run on fossil fuels, coupled with the creeping, sometimes galloping costs of these fuels, then it is easy to conclude that solar power really is the way to go down the road. Then there is the damage to the environment that these power plants create through CO2 emissions and toxic pollution, as well as less obvious costs such as potential oil leaks, contamination of groundwater, even mountaintop removal as fossil fuels are extracted. Solar, in comparison, is GREEN.

But what about the investment costs of going solar? Fortunately, said, Dennis, prices keep dropping as heightened manufacturing capabilities, engineering breakthroughs and design ingenuity keep improving products while making them cheaper, just as computers used to cost an arm and leg in the early days of the cyber revolution before becoming more and more affordable for the average consumer over time. Dennis's own company, Coronado, now caters to the needs of even modest families with small solar units that can produce 800 Watts while retailing for under a thousand dollars, small units powerful enough to run one's most basic electrical needs, especially in third world countries where citizens can't afford big ticket appliances but still need something.

In Haiti, vast stretches of the population, especially in the mountains, have no electricity at all, so I can easily envision a small village pooling its resources together to purchase and install a small system that can provide such basics as lighting, power for communications and transmissions, refrigeration, and so on. Dennis and others even market self-sufficient solar attic fans, solar water heaters and mobile units these days, and the business and private-use markets in Haiti for solar products have barely been scratched.

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I am a student of history, religion, exoteric and esoteric, the Humanities in general and a tempered advocate for the ultimate manifestation of peace, justice and the unity of humankind through self-realization and mutual respect, although I am not (more...)
 
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Wow,what an inspiration! Thanks for a great articl... by Meryl Ann Butler on Friday, Mar 25, 2011 at 9:12:34 AM
Great pictures. It's very heart warming to see thi... by Chantal Laurent on Friday, Mar 25, 2011 at 2:30:40 PM