On Thursday we will be in Washington D.C. meeting with potential funding sources for the IEEE/Sirona Haiti Rural Electricity Project and our Jatropha Project. I cannot possibly express the level of our excitement to see that funders are considering Haiti. For the first time since the earthquake I feel optimistic that money dedicated to Haiti will finally find its way to help Haiti help itself.
We are also preparing the final logistics for shipment of the IEEE/Sirona Haiti Rural Electricity Project equipment. There are six 1.2Kw solar trailers and 240 home battery kits (battery, three lights, cell phone charger). The equipment is in New York, so we must ship to Haiti, move the equipment to Grand Goave for final preparation and training, and then deploy the six units to their operators in St. Etienne, L'Azile, Jeremie, Anse au Veaux, Deuxieme Plaine and Marmelade. A team of IEEE members will train the Haitian operators and the first members of our Haitian technical support team. We will also be providing ongoing entrepreneurial support for the new businesses. The trip should take several weeks and we're optimistic that the equipment will clear customs by early June.
IEEE members have dedicated uncountable hours to design, construct, and test the equipment for this project. They had technical issues with the equipment and had to make some changes. This caused a delay but will be worth the wait in the end. The Sirona team has continued our work with the operators and Haitian teams to prepare for the arrival of the project. The logistics are complex, and navigating Haitian customs is a process not to be taken lightly. We are busy working out schedules, crossing our "t's" and dotting our "i's".
This project will literally change the lives of people in Haiti who, until now, have had no option for electricity in their homes. Children will be able to study at night, people will be able to charge their phones at home rather than walk for miles to do so, candles and kerosene lamps that burn many people each year will be put away. A step into the present will occur in areas that have been left in the dark for too long.
Every level of this project generates commerce. This is an economically sustainable project, not charity. Charging station operators have access to residual electricity generated by the solar panels that is not used to recharge customer battery kits. Refrigeration is the preferred business for most of our operators. Each franchise has 40 customer home kits to lease, and the home battery kit user will be able to charge phones at their homes to offset their own utility payment. Light in and of itself, has value in rural Haiti.
The project is economically sustainable because station operators lease the equipment from Sirona for $200 US per month starting in month four. The home kit is currently priced at $50 Haitian a month ($6.70 US) and customers can recharge as often as needed. The forty home kit payments more than cover the operator's lease payment, and all of the money that the his/her business generates beyond that $200 per month will go to them. In addition, an operator has the option to keep home kit lease payments for the first three months allowing them to purchase equipment for their business and start debt free. The solar equipment is leased, rather than sold, to the operators to guarantee that maintenance will be performed by Sirona. This protects the entrepreneur who would face many challenges repairing/replacing parts for the equipment. Equipment can decay rapidly in rural Haiti and our program is designed to keep everything working.
We are excited to see how it turns out, and we are looking forward to our trip to DC. As always I can't wait to get back to Haiti to turn the lights on!