In a whirlwind eight-day trip to Lascahobas, Haiti, following nearly a year’s worth of planning, designing and hard work, a partnered team from IIT, Green WiFi, and OLPC-Haiti successfully carried out their first solar powering deployment on August 3-11, 2011. They provided the EFACAP school in Lascahobas with the capability to charge 500 One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO laptops with a direct current (DC)-only solar system. According to research by the team and OLPC, the installation is the largest single-school solar laptop-charging deployment in the world.
The DC-only solar powering solution simplifies the system, increases efficiency, and saves on costs. Since solar panels generate DC power and laptops charge with DC power, avoiding the unnecessary conversion saves about 30 percent of energy normally lost in the DC-AC-DC conversion process,. It also saves on the cost of a converter, and helps prevent repurposing of electricity generated, ensuring that the energy is used for its intended purpose — charging the laptops.
The team consisted of Prof. Laura Hosman from Illinois Institute of Technology, Bruce Baikie from Green Wifi, seven students from IIT (Dhara Shah, Jacob Ernst, Mario Berrones, Regine Antenor, Ryan Tillman, Simon Brauer, & Stevie Brummer), Fabrice Urrizalqui from the French-American School in San Francisco, and Guy Serge Pompilus, Director of OLPC-Haiti. Adam Holt from OLPC HQ, Carl Friedrich Lacrete, an engineering student at the State University of Haiti, and four members of the NGO Haiti Outreach joined the team on-site to execute the deployment.
The IIT-based team, with Baikie’s assistance, has worked since August 2010 on the design, drawings, fundraising, lesson plans, and all the various parts of the project. Starting in January 2011, they raised $27,000 to buy all of the equipment and make the travel and deployment possible. The flexibility and replicability of their design was put to the test in multiple ways, as the team improvised and overcame a last-minute change in the school receiving the deployment, a customs problem with some equipment, and the threat of a tropical storm.
The team also set up a new library at the school, filled with books in French and Creole, and created an inventory, catalog and system for checking out the books. The team also talked with the teachers at the school about using the library, about lesson plans on solar power that the team will continue to develop over the coming semester, and carried out a baseline survey on electricity, technology, and laptop usage in the home and classrooms. The team also provided training to the local maintenance staff in solar system upkeep.
The team hopes to make another trip to Haiti in just four months to complete a second installation at a school in the Lascahobas area and return to the EFACAP school with improvements and a system check-up. This group’s work to bring solar solutions to Haiti is entirely reliant on the generosity of donors who have contributed to funding their project.