Smart Grid on Main Street: Electricity and Value-added Processing for Agricultural Goods

Innovator (Country of Incorporation): 
United States
Collaborators: 
Entreprises La Foi (Haiti)
Location Applied: 
Innovation Stage: 
Clean Energy Source: 
Agricultural Focus: 
Product Segment: 
Year of Award: 
Financing Status: 
Organization: 

EarthSpark International is a U.S.-based, nonprofit organization with over six years’ experience working with communities, businesses, and government to bring energy access to Haiti’s unelectrified population. Through its local brand Enèji Pwòp, EarthSpark is an established and recognized brand in Haiti with the track record and infrastructure to scale up its clean energy and micro-grid activities. For this project, EarthSpark has partnered with the Haitian agro-processing company Entreprises La Foi. EarthSpark also spun-off the smart meter technology SparkMeter, Inc., which is now providing solutions to grid operators in other countries.

Problem/Opportunity: 

Seventy-five percent of Haiti’s population lacks access to electricity, and farmers frequently lose value of their crops for want of infrastructure and processing equipment. Where processing facilities do exist, they are typically diesel-powered and expensive to operate. This imposes a severe limitation on farmers’ ability to process agricultural goods, maximize the value of their products, and improve their livelihoods.

Clean Energy Solution: 

EarthSpark has developed a solar-diesel hybrid micro-grid system that will increase access to affordable, reliable electricity for value-added agricultural processing. By providing technical guidance and facilitating access to financing for local partners, EarthSpark is assisting agribusinesses in upgrading to efficient electric mills so the processing of rice, sorghum, coffee, and corn can be modernized. The project first focuses on breadfruit crops that typically rot due to lack of processing. Converting the fruit to flour or chips extends the shelf life by months and significantly increases its value and marketability.

Impact: 

By reducing food losses and enabling value-added processing, the project will boost agribusiness incomes as well as provide surrounding residents with access to electricity, through a pre-paid smart metering system. The project will demonstrate a sustainable business model for operating a local micro-grid, for agribusiness’ upgrading to efficient electric mills for breadfruit processing and electric dekernelling for corn.

Progress Update: 

EarthSpark has built a ‘town-sized, solar- powered, smart grid’ now serving 450 households and businesses in downtown Les Anglais. The grid’s arrival in 2015 brought grid electricity to these customers for the first time. Directly serving over 2000 people with 24-hour electricity powered primarily by solar energy and battery storage, the grid is cutting customers’ energy costs by up to 80% over previous energy sources like kerosene, candles, and privately- owned diesel generators. The community-scale grid is large enough to power small industry while progressive enough to offer accessible service to every single resident living within the infrastructure’s footprint.

EarthSpark has also been working with local agricultural entrepreneurs to both replace diesel run machines with electric ones and introduce new technologies. The local miller now has the ability to use clean energy to mill corn. A local women’s cooperative is trying to mechanize corn de-kernelling with an electric thresher that will save countless hours of manual labor. This same cooperative is also experimenting with breadfruit processing and the ability to extend the shelf life of an extremely perishable product, helping food security. Beyond the targeted agricultural processing businesses and organizations, the grid has enabled residents to start or expand other businesses. EarthSpark has profiled one such entrepreneurial resident, Ms. Antonia Maurice, on the EarthSpark blog.

Project News: