Haiti Microgrid Operator Takes Preventive Steps as Hurricane Irma Nears

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Haiti microgrid operator Sigora Haiti reported Wednesday that it was preparing its facilities to minimize any damage from Hurricane Irma.

The micro-utility company provides electricity to more than 8,000 people in northwest Haiti.

Irma is expected to skirt the northern coast of Haiti, about 65 miles from the three microgrids: Môle-St-Nicolas, Jean Rabel, and Presqu’île.

“We are expecting severe winds, flying debris, storm surge, and flooding. Any waterway, including those that are normally dry, may jump their banks and become dangerous,” said Drew Lebowitz, vice president of operations for Sigora Haiti. “The most dangerous aspect of the storm in these towns is debris. In a high-wind scenario, everything that’s not bolted down becomes a missile.”

Sigora teams have removed solar panels from a recently-completed 200 kW array in Môle-St-Nicola to protect them from flying debris. Any damage to the panels would slow power restoration after the storm.

“Our priority is providing reliable electricity to our customers and if a temporary interruption in service is necessary, we want to ensure that it is as short as possible” said Tyler Welsh, Sigora Haiti’s deputy director of operations.

The microgrids may be shut down preemptively for the hours of strongest wind and rain, and restored after repairs are made. Radio and megaphone announcements will inform residents of planned grid closures.

Môle-St-Nicolas is a remote town, nine hours from the capital Port-au-Prince. So Sigora is stockpiling water purification materials, medical kits, and food at its offices in Jean Rabel and Môle-St-Nicolas for the local population.

Solar facility at Haiti microgrid before and after panel removal in anticipation of Hurricane Irma

Haiti microgrid

Haiti microgrid

“It’s the community and capacity we have built locally that makes the difference” said Drew. “We have an incredibly capable team that is trained in technical matters and safety concerns for preparing the population, taking precautions, and being ready to put things back together whatever happens.”

This would not be the first time the Haiti microgrid company participated in a hurricane relief effort. Sigora Haiti crews assisted in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, a Category 4 in October 2016. Matthew left parts of the country without power for more than three weeks. But Sigora Haiti was able to restore power at Môle-St-Nicolas in just 55 hours.

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Elisa Wood About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than two decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.


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