Last Thursday, January 12, was the two year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Haiti’s capital city, Port au Prince. Many thousands of people died in the quake, and many thousands more were injured and displaced after their homes were destroyed. As the city began to rebuild itself, an exciting trend popped up: solar energy to provide electricity to the huge percentage (85%) of the population living without electricity. One implementation of this is in the solar-powered hospitals being built, such as the Mirebalais Hospital, a teaching facility completely redesigned and donated by Nicholas Clark Architects to be completed in 2012. For photos and more information, check out this article.
Lack of electricity is still one of the main challenges to health care in Haiti. Solar energy projects in medical facilities in Port au Prince and around the country were spurred by stories of doctors performing surgery by flashlight and live-saving vaccines spoiling from lack of refrigeration,. Some projects started before the earthquake, and became even more important and time sensitive in its wake. For instance, the Clinton Global Initiative has been working with Partners in Health (PIH) and the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) since 2006. In 2009, SELF installed a solar panel system on the roof of a public hospital, and plans are underway to outfit up to nine other hospitals.
Part of the Clinton Global Initiative’s work centers around the Light Haiti Project, which works with international partners to provide high performance solar powered portable lighting devices to Haitians. These lights last 750 nights (a minimum of 3,000 hours of light), compared to 15 hours of light from conventional single-use flashlights.
PIH and SELF also completed solar installations in rural communities such as Boucan Carre. According to SELF, the solar installation in Boucan Carre “secure[d] critical loads and improve[d] health care at the clinic, but it also significantly reduced PIH’s need to run a diesel generator for power.” The World Watch Institute’s article about the project states that these installations, as well as the introduction of other types of renewable energy, “can greatly benefit Haitian health development by decreasing clinics’ dependance on fossil fuels and shielding clinics from an unreliable electricity grid.”