Haitians Return to Africa, Bringing Solar Energy
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
SEATTLE, U.S., Aug 2, 2011 (IPS) – Jean Ronel Noël, a young Haitian engineer, stood in a centuries-old fort on a small island just off Dakar and looked out at the Atlantic through a portal that once led enslaved Africans to the ships of the Middle Passage.
“Finally we come to ’the door of the voyage of no return’,” he wrote in a blog. “My blood wouldn’t stop boiling, wave after wave of gooseflesh. I nearly broke down. So it’s through that door that my ancestors passed. The Door of Hell! There are two infinite things, Einstein said: the universe and human stupidity.”
Noël, though, had come to Senegal looking forward more than backward. He brought with him some technological keys that he believes can unlock the doors of a rich storehouse of renewable energy, and ultimately a more durable and self-sufficient model of development for Haiti and other poor countries.
A Senegalese firm specialising in solar-power installations, KAYER, had invited Noël and technician Frantz Derosier to visit the westernmost nation of West Africa to teach their employees how to fabricate their own photovoltaic (PV) panels, which convert sunlight into electricity.
Noël is co-founder, along with his partner Alex Georges, of ENERSA – Énergies Renouvelables, S.A. (Renewable Energies, Inc.). Derosier is one of their 20-odd employees. ENERSA manufactures solar streetlamps and other solar-energy equipment using PV panels that they build from scratch. They count around a thousand such lights installed in over 50 municipalities all over Haiti.
After the catastrophic earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010, which knocked out electrical power across the Port-au-Prince area, these lamps were the only public light sources for some localities. The temblor also destroyed much of ENERSA’s physical plant, but all the employees survived and the firm was able to restart production within a few months.
During the nine days Noël and Derosier were in Senegal, a former French colony like Haiti, they conducted a week of training sessions with KAYER in the headquarters of a peasant farmers’ confederation in the town of Mekhe, about 100 kilometres inland from Dakar, the capital.
Source: IPS (link opens in a new window)