A girl studying by candle light in Les Anglais, Haiti

Photograph courtesy EarthSpark

Great Energy Challenge Grantee: EarthSpark

Project: Smart micro-grids in Haiti

Location: Côte Sud, Haiti

Summary: Residents in the town of Les Anglais, like more than 75 percent of Haitians, currently have no access to grid electricity. However, close to the village center there is one structure that has constant electricity: a cell phone tower. For now residents only hear the hum of power from a generator isolated behind the tower's security walls, but they see an opportunity. Using the tower's generator the town can leapfrog straight to a smart micro-grid system and begin building the vision of netted island micro-grids, which one day could serve as model to share from South to North. (See related Q&A with EarthSpark's Allison Archambault: "Solar Micro-Grid Aims to Boost Power and Food in Haiti."

EarthSpark has worked with Les Anglais since 2008 to build and operate Magazen Eneji Pwop (Clean Energy Store in Haitian Creole), the first store under EarthSpark's national Clean Energy brand. The Magazen cultivates local markets with low-cost, high impact energy products such as efficient cookstoves, solar lanterns and solar home systems. These Clean Energy stores introduce money-saving products through local supply chains and package them with micro- and pico-finance. Smart micro-grids, in tandem with Clean Energy Stores, are the next rung in the 'energy ladder' for residents of the densely packed town centers of the Haitian countryside.

Goal: Mitigate energy poverty by developing smart micro-grids that efficiently leverage existing electricity generation from cell phone towers to provide power to nearby homes and small businesses

"National Geographic's Great Energy Challenge brings desperately needed funding and some of the world's the most innovative energy minds together to support nascent work in the energy poverty field. In addition to funding, which gives EarthSpark a needed boost, the program offers valuable access to National Geographic staff and advisors who have been extremely helpful guides." —Allison Archambault, president, EarthSpark

Project participants: EarthSpark (Allison Archambault, president; Daniel Schnitzer, founder and executive director)

The Great Energy Challenge grant program, in collaboration with a distinguished group of scientists acting as the board of advisors, awards roughly a half-dozen grants per year. The goal of the grant program is to hasten the growth of promising, global energy solutions as a response to climate change, energy resource constraints and environmental limitations.

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