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Solar Energy To Aid Haiti

Haiti is blessed with sunshine – so much so that it’s been on Solar Cookers International’s global list of solar-power prospects for years.

Sun Ovens International
Solar cookers provide a low-cost alternative to charcoal for Haitian families. The devices are basically insulated boxes equipped with reflective aluminum panels.

Sun Ovens International is gearing up for a leading role in the solar-powered relief effort. The company makes solar cookers that are basically insulated boxes, surrounded by strategically placed panels of highly polished aluminum. The ovens get hot enough to boil, steam, roast or bake dishes at temperatures of up to 360 degrees Fahrenheit (182 degrees Celsius).

A $40 donation buys a complete cooking kit for a Haitian family. One commercial-sized oven, capable of making 1,200 meals during an eight-hour workday, is already in Haiti – and two more are on the way. Munsen and his colleagues are just waiting for camps to be established for the homeless (who are known more formally as internally displaced people or IDPs). “Our goal will be to provide the ovens in IDP camps,” Munsen said.

“The first two weeks are always totally relief, and then you get into the real development,” he explained. “Until it gets into more of a development phase, there’s not any sort of infrastructure for putting these technologies in place.”

In the long run, the idea is to get Haitians using solar power instead of charcoal for cooking. “We find that people realize they have money to buy their kids shoes because they’re not buying as much charcoal,” Munsen said.

“Even prior to this, in Port-au-Prince, the majority of families spent 55 percent of their income just buying charcoal,” he explained. “So the issue of having fuel to cook with has been a major problem for Haiti for years before this earthquake. I can’t imagine what it’s like now. We think that using the sun is going to make a great deal of sense.”

Other solar-powered gadgetry could have a similar impact, during the crisis and in the years to come:

* Dutch companies and aid organizations have set up an effort to send 1,000 solar-powered mobile phones to Haiti, to be distributed by Fonkoze Financial Services. “Good communication is an absolute necessity in disaster relief, but Haiti currently has a tremendous power problem, which impedes charging mobile phones,” Paul Naastepad, chief executive officer of the Intivation solar-power company, said in a statement. “The mobile network itself still functions in many instances due to backup generators, or it can be repaired much quicker than the electrical grid.” Check out this report from’s Bill Dedman to see how critical an issue cell-phone recharging has become.

* Florida-based Sol Inc. is contributing more than 100 solar-powered streetlights to the Haitian relief effort. These lights are designed to be installed in less than an hour, stay lit all night and stand up to hurricane-force winds. In the wake of the earthquake, such lights can be used to improve nighttime security in the streets of Port-au-Prince, or provide extra light for outdoor emergency clinics. The big issue is how to get the lights to the right people in a timely fashion. The first shipment went down today with Missionary Flights International.

* New Mexico-based Faith Comes by Hearing is sending Haitian churches 600 “Proclaimers” – portable, solar-powered audio players that have been loaded with the books of the Bible. The players “will be given to local pastors so people can hear God’s word in their own language – Haitian Creole,” spokesman Jon Wilke said. Each Proclaimer can be turned up loud enough to be heard by up to 300 people, in a country where more than a third of adults are illiterate. Wilke said “there is an immediate need for another 3,000 Proclaimers.”

Category/ies:Regional News.
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