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: 

By the end of their Powering Agriculture Award in March 2017, EarthSpark had expanded the microgrid in Les Anglais from a pilot stage with 54 connections to a town-sized, solar-powered smart grid providing power to residents and commercial clients through a total of 452 connections. The project identified and supported acquisition of three agricultural processing technologies - a corn mill, a corn thresher, and a deep fryer. While these items haven't yet shown a significant economic benefit, the entrepreneur-owners continue to refine their business models to increase profitability.

In October 2016, Category 4 Hurricane Matthew made landfall in Les Anglais, inflicting serious damage on the town. The grid fared well, considering the intensity of the storm. 40% of the solar panels were damaged and nearly all of the distribution system as well as home connections will need to be rebuilt. EarthSpark is raising funds for the grid's rehabilitation and plans to be fully functional once again by the end of 2017.

Project News: