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More sun, less diesel

16. November 2018

Generous financial support from Freiamt allowed 70 children at the Maison des Anges children’s home in Haiti to be given a six-month course of medication, bringing the tuberculosis outbreak under control. For the next project, Miranda Bammert-Zahn and her team will be climbing up on to the roof.

Haiti has more than enough sunshine, so it makes sense to explore this source of energy. At present, all of the power for the children’s home in Tabarre, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, is produced using diesel generators. Electricity is needed for water pumps, lighting, fans, refrigerators and freezers, washing machines, office equipment and air conditioners. “Diesel costs, operating hours and service and maintenance costs add up to USD 4,000 per month – an enormous amount that we urgently need to bring down”, says Association Chair Miranda Bammert-Zahn. “That’s why we’ve drawn up an energy optimization strategy with a German-Swiss team of engineers which already completed solar projects in Haiti, and works with Haitian experts.”

Two-thirds solar, one-third diesel
Meeting all of Maison des Ange’s electricity needs would require very large storage batteries, which would mean high investment costs. The optimum combination would therefore be to generate two-thirds of power using solar energy, and one-third using diesel. This would cut diesel costs sharply. It would therefore be worth installing solar panels on the roof of Maison des Anges The team is not looking into financing.

A local workforce
The project would be implemented using local experts and workers under the leadership of a German-Swiss team of engineers. Some of the older teenagers, as well as committed staff, would also be involved. As many materials as possible would be sourced locally. “We’re now at the detailed planning stage,” says Miranda Bammert-Zahn. “We’ll be able to realize the project as soon as we have the financing in place. We hope that that will happen in the spring of 2019, and that the system can begin generating electricity that summer.” The associated investment costs come to some USD 50,000, covering project and planning work, materials, and installation.

A flagship project every year
The solar panels would be the biggest project to date that the Maison des Anges children’s home has implemented with the support of the Association, which was founded in Aettenschwil in 2014. “We’re confident that, with the help of our Freiamt friends, we’ll get this project off the ground, too.” Indefatigable Association Chair Bammert-Zahn recounts three project highlights in just the past few years: “In 2016, with the help of local workers we dug a 50-meter deep well in the home’s grounds. It now supplies fresh water every day. In 2017 we built a separate dormitory for the older teenagers, and this year donations allowed us to buy a new school bus and to provide financial and personnel support to combat the sudden outbreak of tuberculosis at the children’s home.”

Voluntary presence in Haiti
Support for the Maison des Anges children’s home is based entirely on voluntary work. Every single franc that is donated goes to the home. Association representatives travel to Haiti every year at their own expense to move projects forward and to ensure that funding is being used properly. The next trip is happening this month, and will focus on talks connected with the solar panels project. “It’s true that nowadays I volunteer for the Association round the clock. But I have a great team who put just as much heart and soul into it as I do,” Miranda Bammert-Zahn concludes.