Wind power a viable, but unreliable option to improve Haiti's energy system - Metro US

Wind power a viable, but unreliable option to improve Haiti’s energy system

TORONTO – Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister is eyeing the potential for wind power along Haiti’s coastline to restore and improve the earthquake ravaged country’s capacity for power production.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Monday technology will be an important element in rebuilding Haiti after its infrastructure was devastated in the Jan. 12 earthquake that left most of the Caribbean country in ruins.

Wind power could reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels, the minister said before a conference on Haitian reconstruction in Montreal.

Experts say while wind energy should be considered as part of a long-term energy strategy for Haiti, it is too expensive and unreliable as a short-term source of power to fuel reconstruction.

Andrew Thompson, a senior fellow who specializes in Haiti at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, said Cannon is not the first person to raise wind power as an option for Haiti. A strong airstream that covers the island makes wind power a viable possibility, he said.

“(But) there’s no silver bullet for Haiti’s energy needs wind would be one of a series of different options, I think its worth considering solar power as well, where it makes sense.”

“The geography of Haiti may lend itself to (wind power), however wind power requires a lot of investment up front and a tremendous amount of infrastructure in order to transport the electricity,” he added.

Thompson said in addition to wind and solar energy, Haiti needs to consider importing charcoal from a neighbouring country.

Haiti’s forests have been plundered to supply charcoal for cooking and other daily sources of energy for the 80 per cent of Haitians who are desperately poor.

Haiti’s mainly thermal and hydroelectric plants supply only a fraction of the energy required and even those who can afford to be on the grid receive power for only half the day. Many rely on diesel generators.

Meanwhile, wind is intermittent and works at full power capacity only one-third of the time fossil fuel plants do, so a back up source of power would be crucial, said Robert Evans, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of British Columbia.

“It really only makes sense to integrate it into an existing situation where you’ve got the availability of back up power of some kind.”

Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told delegates his government has set up six committees to deal with the crisis, including sanitation and energy. It could take as long as three or four months to restore electricity in Port-au-Prince, which is now using generators.

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