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Energy Cast Podcast: The potential of sustainable solar in Haiti

10Power
A 10Power crew of Haitian solar installers working on a solar project for UNICEF Haiti Headquarters – the largest solar and energy storage on any UNICEF base in the world.

Energy Cast is a podcast featuring some of the top experts across all links in the energy industry chain, including renewables, generation and more! Jay Dauenhauer created the show and has been hosting Energy Cast for several years.

Click below to listen to the full episode:

You’ve heard me talk about the importance of bringing energy to the underserved parts of the world.  Electricity is taken for granted here.  But in places like Africa, which we covered in Episode 28, it can make the difference between coming into the light and living in the dark.

10Power, a San Francisco-based solar energy developer, believes electrification should begin with commercial and industrial customers.  Give them some “juice,” and they’ll jumpstart an economy.

Sandra Kwak, 10Power’s president and CEO, calls her company a “triple bottom-line business”—one that generates profit, helps people, and helps the planet.

The company is currently developing small projects in Haiti, about 100-150 kW.  I was struck by how much work was performed by local solar crews there.  “One of the keys to success is working with local entities, and making sure that you’re truly serving that market, she says. “Who’s going to better-understand that market than someone who is from there?”

She says one of the biggest challenges in Haiti for business has been virtually no access to capital.  The federal government is also in crisis at the moment, which is why she says they chose to focus on commercial/industrial customers.

In addition, Sandra says it’s important their customers—who pay for the service—use electricity “to improve that quality of life.”  She points to a water purification facility that can now produce clean water for ⅓ the original price, using conventional electric generators.

10Power’s system still has to rely on some diesel generation to shore up reliability, though Sandra’s hope is to transition to a tier of reliability whereby an independent electrical system can be comprised of 100% renewables and 100% battery backup.

According to the International Energy Administration (IEA), about 1.1 billion people still have no access to energy.  By 2030, that figure should drop to approx. 674M, with 600M in sub-Saharan Africa.  Fossil fuels brought most people energy until now.  By 2030, IEA forecasts most energy will come from renewable energy like 10Power’s projects.

Sandra estimates Haiti still requires about 500MW.  She says one hospital without electricity performs surgery by candlelight. “In these communities a few watts can be the difference between life and death,” she says.

Sandra believes the terms “Developing” and “Developed World” are poor terms.  What she proposes in her 2016 Ted Talk is “Fourth World Nation Building.”

“We can create a higher standard of living for every single person on the planet, and do so in a way where we all still enjoy a high a standard and quality of life,” she says.  “But we do so in a way that is not detrimental to the planet.” (This article was originally posted in October 2019).


Energy Cast Podcast is hosted biweekly by Jay Dauenhauer.

Learn more about the podcast here.

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