Alina enèji – scaling up mesh-grids in rural haiti

A Case Study
Tim Ha
December 5, 2022

Who, What & Where

  • Project developer: Alina Enèji
  • Funding partners: OGEF
  • Technology: 300 households, 63 kWp, 178 kWh – deployed via Okra mesh-grid
  • Location: Haiti

The Company

Alina Enèji is a Haitian project developer. Their focus has been on providing clean, reliable and affordable electricity to last-mile areas of Haiti, and their ambition is to scale energy access across the nation with the combined support of local communities and institutional stakeholders.

Okra Solar is an Australian technology supplier specializing in the design and production of interconnected decentralized energy systems  (known as “mesh-grids”) for last-mile communities.

The Challenge

Dulagon is a remote rural village in the Artibonite department of Haiti;  a country with a ~46% electrification rate. Previously, 30 households in Dulagon had been electrified by Alina Enèji using Okra’s mesh-grid technology. The success of this pilot was met with follow-on demand to extend energy access to 300 additional households, both in Dulagon and its surrounding villages. Site surveys indicated that most households had minimal energy needs (approximately less than 200Wh/day), but there was also a substantial number of households with medium to high-energy needs. At the time, all households were relying on alternative fuels such as kerosene and diesel.

Renewable Solution

Alina’s Enèji’s scale-up model was optimized for:

  1. Providing reliable and affordable electricity to all households with 1.5 days of battery autonomy,  
  2. Across multiple localities of sparsely populated rural villages,
  3. Whilst serving both low, medium and high-energy users on prepaid packages,
  4. At the lowest capex possible

Alina Enèji opted to go for a “hub-&-spoke” implementation of the mesh-grid that enabled an average daily load of 440 Wh/day with 1.5 days battery autonomy.

63 kW of solar PV and 178 kWh of lithium storage was installed amongst clusters of interconnected households fitted with the Okra “Pod”: a system controller that redistributes excess energy between neighboring households.

Each household cluster consisted of varying combinations of these configurations (in order of lowest-to-highest energy demand):

  1. Pod only
  2. Pod + battery OR  solar PV
  3. Pod + battery + solar PV

In this hub-&-spoke design, medium-high energy households (“hubs”), with more battery and solar capacity, shed excess energy to lower energy households (“spokes”). By concentrating storage and generation in this hub-&-spoke topology, Alina Enèji was able to reduce costs by bulk purchasing larger battery variants which had a slightly higher $/kWh compared to smaller variants.

Project Financing & Costs

The total project cost of to energize a further 300 household via mesh-grids came out to be:

  • $156,782 total
  • Or $523/connection

(Note: Initially we stated $134,076 or $446/connection, but those numbers were EXW. The new figures reflect the landed and installed cost of the system)

Funding for the project was given to Alina Enèji by the Off-Grid Electricity Fund (OGEF), managed by Bamboo Capital Partners. Regulatory support was given by the Haitian body Autorite Nationale de Regulation du Secteur de l’Energie (ANARSE).

Project Outcome

The 300 household scale-up was installed over a period of 35 days by Alina Enèji’s field team. At the time of writing this case study, households were using an average of 302 Wh/day with some households using up to 1800Wh/day.

End consumers pay for energy via mobile money on a prepaid subscription model.

The continued use of productive power is also attributed to a financing scheme that provided productive use appliances, such as freezers and rice cookers, to a number of households at the beginning of the project.

Next Steps

To support with project O&M, Alina Enèji has been actively training local maintenance agents. Okra Solar is also actively building a local technical support team in Haiti to provide hands-on training and assistance. With 330 households now fully energized, Alina Enèji is in the process of shipping equipment to energize an additional 700 additional households in the Marchand Dessalines region using mesh-grids. This phased scale-up should be fully operational by early 2023. Looking beyond, Alina Enèji is aiming to further its energy access portfolio to rapidly serve an additional potential 100,000 households in Haiti.

After a stint in the world of Electrical Engineering, Tim tapped into his creative side and worked as a freelance photographer and filmmaker in Cambodia for three years, with a focus on short documentaries for NGO’s. Now he’s able to combine his technical engineering skills with his love for telling stories and creating content at Okra.