STORY

Microgrid signals hope

Posted on March 21, 2023 by Lucie Maluck

Microgrids are considered to be the future of distributed power generation. Haiti has had one in operation for many years – with suitable assistance from Rolls-Royce employees.
Port au Prince, Haiti
There seems to be a lack of everything in Haiti. The Caribbean country is overpopulated and repeatedly gets hit by natural disasters, for example the 2010 earthquake in which nearly 300,000 lost their lives. Millions of people are struggling to survive in the country, and stable power supplies sound like the stuff of dreams, which all goes to make the project established by the German Biohaus Foundation with Haitian partner Fondation St. Luc all the more impressive, with a microgrid supplying power to a complex of orphanages, schools, facilities for the disabled, craft workshops and hospitals just outside the capital Port-au-Prince. The project recently won the Biohaus Foundation the honorary 'Energy Globe Award Haiti' accolade conferred by the Energy Globe Foundation.  

Ten years ago, the Biohaus Foundation began installing a solar power system – initially on the roof of the children's hospital – with an 83 kW power output which made it one of the biggest in the country at the time. Gradually, the other surrounding building complexes such as the earthquake emergency hospital, schools and kindergartens were linked up to the children's hospital to form a dedicated power grid, cutting diesel consumption dramatically as each unit had previously had its own – often oversized – diesel generator.  

mtu energy management system balancing output and demand

The ingenious thing about this off-grid system is an mtu battery container that stores electricity during the day and ensures solar power is also available at night (with diesel generators ready to step in if more power is needed). The solar arrays with a total output of 830 kW, the mtu storage batteries and the diesel generators are all managed by the mtu microgrid control system or energy management system (EMS) that works to ensure the amount of power being generated is always in balance with demand. For example, it kicks the diesel gensets into action if the sun is not shining and battery power levels are too low to cope, then ensuring the batteries receive a charge, preparing them to go back on-stream.  

“International solidarity at its very best”

Rolls-Royce employees have remote access to the microgrid at all times and are able to support the Haitians via remote maintenance links, giving their Haitian customers on-site advice and guidance when, say, a battery rack has to be replaced or, as was recently the case, needs to be re-activated.

“It is impressive and very encouraging for us Haitians to be able to secure and optimize the power supplies to our hospitals with the aid of modern communications despite the chaos that prevails in our homeland. Rolls-Royce's partners are extremely committed and helpful in this – and we now regard them as our friends,” said Maxime Génécé, senior engineer on site. Willi Ernst, founder and chairman of the Biohaus Foundation, agreed: “We're delighted and impressed by the helpfulness and proficiency of the Rolls-Royce Power Systems technicians, who identify so strongly with our aid project in Haiti and support us to the best of their ability. That's international solidarity at its very best,” he said.  

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