After a few weeks of team-building and figuring out what we realistically could expect to focus on in one semester, our course-based IPRO team jumped into working on the solar aspects of the project. Bruce Baikie came to IIT’s campus twice in September, and led two workshops for our class, on Solar Powering ICT in the Developing World.
The team was given a case study of our pilot school in Haiti, to try out our formulas and calculating-skills, in order to figure out the solar energy and hardware/equipment needs, as well as possible expenses. On Bruce’s recommendation, we have proposed a DC-only solar energy solution, which avoids the expense and loss-of-energy from an AC inverter. It further safeguards that the solar solution will only be used for the specific purpose of charging the laptops.
Our price estimate at that time came in at $7,000, but we were using information available over the Internet, based on availability to the US market. We have since decided that our pilot equipment will be purchased from solar equipment sellers locally based in Haiti. We will likely get these estimates when we go for our site inspection in January, 2011.
This consideration fits with our larger goal of making the project open-source, and replicable across Haiti, and beyond. We’re planning to meet and partner with some Haitian engineering students while on-site in Haiti in January, and work with them to build skills, with the hope that they may spearhead the scaling of the project, after the concept has been proven at the three pilot schools in Lascahobas. Buying equipment locally also adds to the sustainability of the project.
In order to get a real hands-on feel for deploying a solar solution without leaving the campus (and staying within our small allotted IPRO budget), the group put together a mini-model of our solar solution, designed to power four OLPC XOs, in the Chicago (limited) sunlight. We first did our calculations for the solar needs, priced out the equipment, ordered it, put it all together.
I’m happy to report that on our first try, the model worked! (See power light below.)
Next week: further IRPO developments…