Engineering team supports green energy in Haiti

A team of CU-Boulder engineers traveled to Haiti this month to support the growth of green energy on the two-year anniversary of the country’s devastating earthquake. 

Engineering professors Alan Mickelson and Mike Hannigan and graduate student Matt Hulse collaborated with the Neges Foundation school at Leogane to create a vocational training program on the installation, operation and maintenance of renewable energy systems.   

“I’m eager to learn about the people of Haiti and the services that they would like energy systems to provide,” said Hannigan, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. “Historically, the development of energy systems has shaped nations and economies, so the timing is right to pass along what we have learned about those energy systems that are sustainable.”

The Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake that struck Haiti destroyed what little electricity infrastructure had existed in the country, plunging towns across the country into total darkness and forcing households to rely on high-cost diesel generators for power, according to news reports. As a result, families are unable to study or work at night, and the number of assaults, particularly against women and girls, has increased. 

Studies point to Haiti’s great potential for renewable energy, including solar, hydro and wind power. “The present lack of a Haitian power grid cries out for a distributed solution -- that is, one that grows from small, localized, renewable energy sources,” said Mickelson, associate professor of electrical, computer and energy engineering.

About $35,000 has been provided for the initiative by CU-Boulder’s Mortenson Center for Engineering in Developing Communities, the IEEE Foundation and the CU-Boulder Outreach Committee. The Mortenson Center is seeking additional funding to build upon the initiative and develop additional vocational training curriculum on sustainable and disaster-resistant design and construction.

The Mortenson Center was founded to promote integrated, participatory and sustainable solutions to the engineering challenges of the developing world, with a focus on clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene; energy; sustainable and disaster-resistant building materials and shelter; and cook stoves and indoor air quality. For more information, go to http://mcedc.colorado.edu/.

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