We had intended to ship in January but for several reasons we will be sending our equipment to Haiti in early February. Our partners are anxiously awaiting deployment of these six pilot units.
In a nutshell, the systems are six trailers (four feet wide and eight feet long) which each have six solar panels of the same dimensions that are mounted on frames that can open and expand. There are four large (200 lb.) batteries in each trailer for a Haitian enterpreneur to begin a business. Our most common business idea has been making ice.
In addition to these four large batteries there are 40 battery kits for customers to lease and take to their homes. Each kit has a rechargeable battery, wiring, two lights and a cell phone charger. For a rate comperable to the cost of candles, cell phone charging and kerosene Haitians will be able to have electric light in their homes. The excitement in the hills is contagious, I can't wait to get there next month and see it all in the field.
So today our dedicated IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) are busy fabricating the pilot units in Long Island and I am busy acquiring quick Kreyol translations for instructions/labels/etc.
It's exciting work, and meaningful. The dedication of the IEEE members is incredible. Our six Haitian small businesses will have three months to get started, meaning that they may keep the lease payments made by customers for the first three months. This should fund the refrigerator or any other initial start-up equipment they need without incurring debt. Then, beginning in month four they will begin a monthly lease payment for the equipment so that it can pay for itself over time.
Haitians crave the ability to work and make a living. This project has many positive impacts, the obvious and the less obvious. It's very hard for Americans to imagine what it's like to live without any electricity. I know that our project creates businesses, jobs and that for the first time many children will be able to do homework after dark. Haitians are very good at creating income streams and we know that many will offset the cost of their equipment by charging their friends phones... the list of postive impact will certainly go on and on.
One group I am very excited about is at an orphanage in Jeremie. The Pastor there has had orphans since 1982, and he has never had a sustainable source of income to provide for them. Now, with the unit we will deliver, he will finally have a revenue producing opportunity and light at his orphanage for the first time in eight years. Many of the children are younger than eight and have no memory of light in their home. If there is one place I want to be this year, it's at Pastor Honore's orphanage when the lights come on for the first time. It's going to be amazing.