Final Report: Wind Energy for Haiti: A Rapidly Deployable Renewable Energy System

EPA Grant Number: SU835099
Title: Wind Energy for Haiti: A Rapidly Deployable Renewable Energy System
Investigators: Peters, Catherine A. , Bou-Zeid, Elie , Campus, Angelo , Chang, Ben , Elbert, Eleanor , Fauber, Ryan , Jeong, Sarah , Liu, Yunzhi , Moder, Emily , Pal, Satyajeet , She, Richard , Smith, Kate , Verne, Wesley
Institution: Princeton University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2011 through August 14, 2012
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Awards , Sustainability


In this project, we seek to develop a novel technology for portable sustainable power generation on the scale of 1kW that is reliable, cost-effective, and easily deployable. The system that we designed and built is being called “Power in an Box”. It is a hybrid wind-solar power system that can be transported in a shipping container and erected on site using only human power. The scope of the one-year Phase I project included engineering design and analysis of a prototype model, observation and analysis of an existing 200W hybrid wind-solar power system, construction and testing of a small-scale prototype system in a 20 ft shipping container, economic analysis of a micro-enterprise business model for financial security, and comparison with traditional portable diesel power systems.

During phase II, the full-scale prototype will be built, additional design tasks related to the increased height and weight will be tackled, and a new deployment model will be adopted. The new model will consist of enabling the local construction of similar power sytems, using local skills and resources. In this new phase, our aim is to reach multiple African communities. To achieve this, we have established a partnership with access:energy, an African incubator and social venture that works with communities to increase energy production using clean energy solutions, while creating local jobs and manufacturing capacity. The bulk of generated power will be used to supply the energy needed by a small clinic, school, library or other social need. Additional power is expect and will be sold to local users in cell-phone charging stations. The cell-phone charging business will generate needed revenue and will also serve an important function, which is to improve community members access to communication systems, with all the concomitant economic benefits.

The team has benefitted tremendously from the wide range of skills of the participating students with diverse majors including Engineering, History, Politics, Economics and Finance, International Relations, and African Studies Departments, as well as students of all classes. The students worked in the context of an Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) course. This is a special type of course focusing on student-led projects, multidisciplinary teams and hands-on learning. The next phase will continue to use this course as a conduit to recruit students and to maximize the educational impacts of the project.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

The final design of the system is the result of long deliberations, brainstorming sessions, and quantitative analysis that aimed at defining the applications of our systems, the requirements associated with each application, and the most efficient designs to meet these requirements. A hybrid (horizontal axis) wind-solar system was adopted after consideration of multiple alternatives (vertical axis wind, solar only, etc) and after a financial comparison to diesel generators (see body of proposal) that showed that our system is more cost efficient for any operating period exceeding 3 years since the operating costs are significantly lower than for diesel.

The shipping container was adopted since it allows easy transport and serves as a base for the turbine that adds stability and can house electrical components. A novel aspect of our design is the telescoping tower that puts the wind turbine at a high-wind elevation. This elevation, however, creates what we learned to be the largest technical challenge of the power-in-a-box system: the tradeoff between structural stability and elevation. In the current prototype, the turbine is stabilized with pre-stressed cables attached to the shipping container. In the full-scale model, it is likely that additional cables will need to be anchored to the ground.

In addition to the technical work, multiple micro-enterprise business models were analyzed and the one that was selected ensures long-term sustainability since it includes a paying cell phonecharging component that can generate revenue to cover maintenance costs and pay the salaries of the local caretakers/proprietors of the system.

The outputs of Phase I include:

  1. A full design of the mechanical, electrical and structural components of the hybrid system.
  2. A 500 W prototype that will be presented at the EXPO in Washington DC and that we will ship to a school in Ghana to power a computer and science lab.
  3. A business plan to ensure the financial sustainability of the project.

The outcomes of Phase I include:

  1. Extensive educational opportunities for the multidisciplinary team of students in the EPICS engineering design course.
  2. Multiple partnerships, the most pertinent of which are 1) access:energy an African incubator and social venture that works with communities to increase energy production using clean energy solutions, while creating local jobs and manufacturing capacity, and 2) Princeton Power Systems, a local renewable energy company that is providing us with material and in-kind support including assistance with the design of electrical components.
  3. An improved understanding of the real-world performance of wind, solar, and hybrid systems. How they compare to each other, and to fossil fuel generato


Our aim of designing and building a prototype of a portable sustainable power generation system that is reliable, cost-effective, and easily deployable was accomplished in Phase I, though a diverse team of students from multiple academic backgrounds. The design process investigated multiple alternatives. Repeated revisions and re-examinations of our design approach and criteria ensured that the selected design is the most suited for the intended applications, which are to provide power in post-disaster conditions or to isolated communities to improve their standard of living and access to health-care and education. The prototype will be deployed at a school in Ghana this coming summer. During this phase we also developed a new vision for Phase II, where the focus will be on helping communities build their own systems in Kenya and in other African Countries. These locally-built system have the potential to generate not only electricity that can be used to power the specific needs of a community, but also a dialogue on environmentally conscious living and the importance of sustainable power in the development of rural communities.

Supplemental Keywords:

sustainable energy, wind/solar hybrid power, wind power, microenterprise, rural communities, Africa, manual assembly, easily deployable, telescoping mast, portable energy system

Relevant Websites:

Power-in-a-Box Exit

P3 Phase II:

Power in a Box: Shipping Sustainable Energy to Recovering and Off-the-Grid Communities