Watch this Haiti solar video to see what a difference solar made in Gressier, Haiti.
Solar2World and Gulf South Solar power Respire Haiti – the movie!
SolarWorld and Gulf South Solar bring power to Respire Haiti
One 45 minute visit to the rural community of Gressier, Haiti changed 24 year old Megan Boudreaux’s life forever. From that one trip alone, she witnessed the hardships of the children living in Gressier, and how the local restavek tradition of using orphaned and abandoned children as child slaves stunted the development of the community. Gulf South Solar owner, Jeff Shaw, traveled with Megan on one of her many visits to Haiti and was impressed with her focus and determination to help make a difference in the community of Gressier.
After returning to her native Louisiana, Megan had a vision to empower the children and community and felt called to return to Gressier to help aid them in education, sustainable living, and economic development. In December 2010, she founded Respire Haiti, one of the most successful non-profit organizations currently in Haiti. The organization was created from a vision to aid restavek orphans and vulnerable children. Being a proactive example against the restavek tradition, Megan adopted two girls Michaelle and Jessica, and became a member of the Gressier community. Her drive and determination to provide the basic necessities of living for all the children of Gressier has helped to create an awareness program against the restavek tradition. In addition, she has facilitated the building of a new school, a medical facility, a recycling program, and skills and language classes to aid in future job placement and creation for these children. From Megan’s one, 45 minute visit to Gressier, she has been able to positively change the lives of those in the Gressier community. Her passion to aid her new community in Haiti grows every day. With her adopted girls in mind, she hopes to aid in developing a sustainable community for not only her girls, but for every child in Gressier.
The Restavek Tradition
A restavek is a child who is given up by his or her parents to a higher socioeconomic family, due to the parents’ lack of resources to raise and support their child. The child may be as young as four or five when given to the employing family, and usually can no longer contact his or her natural family. It is quite likely, that the child has only a vague notion of where he or she comes from, age, or family surname. The restavek child is inherited, not as an adopted child, but as a modern day slave. The child usually performs the bulk of the household labor, without pay, and is typically not treated like a family member. The child is therefore unlikely to attend school, even if the family’s children attend school; to eat with the family; or to eat the same quality of diet as the family.
If the restavek child is unhappy with the adopted family, mistreated, beaten, or sexually abused, there are no effective laws to protect and assist the child. In fact, the unhappy or abused restavek child is left to solve his or her own problems. Most restaveks do not remain as the property of the restavek families forever, and, at a certain age, are forced to find work. In most cases, adults who grew up as a restavek have extremely limited opportunities to change the circumstances of their lives as they grow older because of the limitations of education, skills, and development.
Haiti’s tradition of owning restaveks deprives the child of the most basic human and civil rights: rights to family, education, health care, childhood, leisure, shelter, and nutrition. This in turn only continues the never ending cycle of poverty in Haiti.
Respire Haiti’s Mission
The overwhelming number of restaveks moved Megan’s heart to help make an impact in her. In January 2011, she moved to Gressier permanently to her new community. Since her move, she has focused majority of her efforts in alleviating the restavek crisis through education and relationships. By creating a relationship with the community leaders, elders, parents, and young adults of her community, she has been able to educate them about the negative effects the restavek tradition has brought upon their children and nation. This method ultimately helps to bring awareness of respect and equality for all children of Haiti, in the hopes to stop the practice of owning restaveks.
Along with stopping the restavek practice, Megan created Respire Haiti to help create sustainable solutions and empower the people of Gressier. One of the first opportunities she wanted to help provide for the children of Gressier was their education. Respire Haiti has been able to construct a new, nationally accredited school that educates over 500 students ranging from Kindergarten to 9th grade, and is currently constructing a secondary school. Out of the 500 students that are currently enrolled, more than 70% of them are restaveks. The education that Respire Haiti can provide for these children, are priceless to Haiti’s economy alone. According to UNICEF, only 2% of the children of Haiti finish secondary school. With a shocking statistic as this, the lack of education leads to a lack of trained skills, and proper employment for the various ministries in Haiti to help create a more developed nation.
The students gather for the 1st day of school at RHCS (October 1, 2012)
Respire Haiti Christian School (RHCS) is different from the average private school in Haiti. If a student cannot pay his or her school fee, the child is still admitted into the school. RHCS has a school sponsorship program, whereby individuals can sponsor a child to attend school at a low fee of $250 USD a year. The fee not only provides the child’s school fees, but also provides the child with basic medical and dental needs at Respire Haiti’s medical facility, uniforms, books, school supplies, and breakfast. What makes RHCS unique compared to the other schools, is that it was established with the community in mind. It was their desire to create a community equipped to empower, educate, and encourage children and adults in Gressier.
During the building of RHCS, local residents constructed the school, creating jobs within the Gressier community. To improve both the issue of poverty and trash in Gressier, Respire Haiti partnered with Executives Without Boarders and Haiti Recycling to begin Ramase Lajan, a Haitian Creole phrase that means “picking up money.” The recycling program helps make an environmental impact on the community while providing those involved with funds to save and invest in their children’s education, farmland, or everyday necessities.
Besides giving opportunities of job creation, job skills, and environmental cleanup, RHCS has created various programs to bring both language and life skills to Gressier. One program that RHCS currently has is an English class. The class offers two English classes, three days a week on the school’s campus. The English classes allow those participating to practice speaking and conversing in English. Relationships between the Respire Haiti interns and groups are further established when participating in these classes with the local Gressier residents. Not only do they provide English classes, but Respire Haiti offers a soccer program that focuses on teaching students the fundamentals of soccer and valuable life lessons such as respect, discipline, teamwork, success, failure, dedication, and hard work.
RHCS waiting for solar modules to provide electricity (June 2012)
All the programs and activities associated with RHCS have provided hope within Gressier to one day become a developed community, but Megan’s vision for a self-sustaining community is not complete, with new plans developing monthly. As of September 2012, construction of five additional classrooms has begun and will be completed by December 2012. It is Megan’s dream to create one of the classrooms into a computer laboratory for the students to use as a resource, language, and an interactive math and science center. Although this dream is underway and almost complete with 20 computers already donated to Respire Haiti for RHCS, there is no electricity to power these computers.
Megan’s plan for the computer lab includes a language area where students can learn French. In Haiti, children are born and will learn to speak Creole, their mother tongue language. This unfortunately is a disadvantage for students, because their national exams are in French. The computers can be a good resource for the primary students learning the French language. French software would help the students to be more interactive in hearing and seeing the language in different ways. Studies have shown that students who have passed the national exams with higher grades, were more advanced in their French language classes. This correlates to being accepted to higher ranked universities and getting better job opportunities in the future. Besides language training, the computer labs can be used as a science and math learning center. With advanced science and math skills, students can gain an interest in technological sectors for innovation in the future, something that is needed for Haiti’s recovery and economy.
The Need and Our Request
We asked, and SolarWorld partnered with us to provide electricity to the students at RHCS. SolarWorld provided 30 modules, which is almost 8,000 watts. Gulf South Solar donated the Outback Power Systems inverters, the solar array racking system, all additional equipment and the installation.
It was our original goal to provide classroom lighting to bring light during the dark rainy seasons, run fans to make the students more comfortable learning, and to power computers to help aid in the students’ learning for all subjects. Due to the length of time from the original request to the final installation time a big change happened at Respire Haiti. There was a medical clinic donated and built by the group, 147 Million Orphans. It became a priority to power the clinic over the classrooms so we changed our design and plans and did just that. In January, 2016, the Respire Haiti Medical Clinic became solar powered!
Since the solar power for the classrooms and computer lab was diverted to the medical clinic, there is still a need. If we can partner with another generous organization we’d like to go back in 2017 and provide an additional system for Respire. After the development of the computer lab, there are plans to utilize the lab not only to educating the students, but to train the community in computer and other technological skills. Respire Haiti wishes to use any other electricity generated by the solar system to power a community center that they hope to build. The community center will hold parenting, health, life skills, French, and music classes; all classes will be designed to help bring awareness in raising children properly to decrease the number of children turning into restaveks, family planning, healthy living, and skills training.
We believe in Megan and Respire Haiti’s cause in empowering a community and stopping the restavek tradition. We hope SolarWorld will join us in supporting this community with solar energy, so that further extensive teaching and skills training can be accomplished for the future of the Gressier community.
If you wonder why solar in Louisiana is losing the net metering battle to utilities, the reason is lobbying. You can have all your feel-good activist show up in matching t-shirts, or Facebook campaign for an email blitz to the PSC, but unfortunately your efforts are futile. Lobbying (money) wins every time.
In a recent study by the Investor Responsibility Research Center (IRRC), 25 of the top investor owned utilities in the US spent $400,000,000 on lobbying AGAINST solar! If they would have spent the same amount of money ON solar they could have installed over 133 MEGAWATTS of solar. (26.4 GIGAWATTS if spent on solar loan guarantees)
So, monopolies continue to be monopolies, making decisions with their investors money in an effort of self-protection. How protected are they? Only the future (and people smarter than the monopolies) know for sure. The utilities did not fight or question net-metering when I wrote the law for Louisiana in 2003 requiring it to be allowed. They didn’t sense any threat. Now they do and I think that’s funny.
The headlines read – “Installers prep for Residential Solar PV plus Energy Storage” and I laugh. That’s what Gulf South Solar has been doing for over 13 years in Louisiana! We have been able to provide our customers with storage, (the most logical solar) since we opened in 2003.
While some of our customers have chosen to just go with battery-less systems (faster payback), they now come back to add the storage component. Enjoy this article…
Is solar still a good deal in 2016?
“The end of solar”. “Doom and gloom”. “Net metering is over”. Tax credits are gone”. “No more grid-tie”
The answer is YES. While these phrases have been used quite a bit lately lets look at the facts…
1. Solar is a very good deal now. Solar is at the lowest price ever, dropping cost to 30% of what it was a few years ago. Combined with the uncapped 30% federal tax credit equals not just a good deal, its more like a great deal.
2. The 30% Federal tax credit was extended 5 more years, but not as an excuse to postpone your solar. (This is currently a tax credit for residential or commercial solar, with no limit)
3. The State tax credit provided for 50% of the system costs for 8 years. If you procrastinated I’m sorry, the legislature ended it. The good news is that the prices have dropped more than the 50% they were giving!
4. Net-metering is still allowed in most places. The utilities have convinced the PSC to let them credit excess power generated (over and above what you use), at wholesale cost, so if you use what you make there is no change. If you make more than you can use you will get a little less than before. (Small house with a big system)
5. Send us a copy of your electric bill and let us show you how you can get solar with no money down and 80% off! Don’t put it off any more or you will regret it.
Look to California for the Green Future
Many years ago (14 as of this writing), I converted my hobby of solar power into my business. My team has been able to get hundreds of people powered with solar as a result. When I looked to California for guidance, I realized they had “net-metering” and we didn’t. I immediately wrote legislation in 2003 so that Louisiana could head towards a green future as well.
Fast forward to 2016: As I have watched the systematic dismantling of our net-metering law here in Louisiana, I again looked towards California to see what they are doing. Not only has their solar been under attack, but I found that most of the US is as well. California has a higher percentage of grid-tied solar than LA, and was the first state to exceed 5%. Our Louisiana utilities started shutting solar net-metering down when we hit only 0.5%.
The California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) voted last week on a compromise plan between solar and utilities. At first, the CPUC was going for payment of only 2-3 cents per kilowatt-hour, similar to the “avoided cost” Louisiana is trying to force us into. However, it was decided that simply a “reasonable” minimum grid connect fee was better for all.
If we were smart, and we wanted a green future, and we don’t want to reinvent the wheel, we should “Look to California for the Green Future” and model our net metering “2.0” after theirs. It sure would save time and money.
Solar for Respire Haiti, Part 2 – The Installation (For Part 1 click here)
As we prepared to fly down to Haiti in October 2015, we checked our tools and tried to think of every part we could possibly need for our solar power installation. There would be no second chances or supply houses nearby. The last thing to confirm was that our solar power system had made it to Gressier, Haiti, but that was not the case. The three pallets we shipped off early in the summer were not going to make it before our scheduled trip in October that we had already bought tickets for. Our equipment shipment was postponed due to the Air Force plane being diverted to aid in relief efforts for the flooding in South Carolina. Without our equipment on site we had to scrap our trip three days before we were to fly down.
Our new plan was to wait until our equipment was confirmed to be in Haiti, which turned out to be a month later. We rescheduled our trip and flights for January 8-13, 2016. This turned out to be a blessing as “winter” in Haiti provides a slightly lower temp to work in with highs at 90 degrees.
With that Friday being a full travel day, our first hike up Bellevue mountain to see Respire Haiti was the next morning. At the top of the mountain Megan walked us passed the school where we originally planned to install the solar on, and then to where the new medical clinic was built. I met my Haitian helpers (who were eager to learn solar) and climbed up on the roof where the solar panels were going. It checked out fine as did the equipment room where the inverter and batteries were going.
Our team spent all day Saturday installing the rails on the roof, and the inverter and batteries in the room. Sunday we attended church actually under the roof we were installing solar on! Monday we continued wiring the array and inverter as well as moved the modules up to the roof. By Tuesday lunch we fired up the inverter on battery power only which brought power to the clinic! By the end of the afternoon we completed installing the solar panels on the roof and connected to the inverter. Everything worked perfect the first time and we were grateful because our flight to return home was early the next morning.
The system consisted of 30 SolarWorld 265 modules on SnapNrack rails, an Outback Radian 8048 with 2 FM-80 charge controllers, and 16 Trojan L16RE batteries.
This gift of solar power to Megan and the Respire Haiti organization will be one that keeps on giving. I am excited that future medical teams take advantage of electricity in their service to the people of Gressier, Haiti. Maybe next trip we can provide that solar power to the Respire school we had originally intended to help!
The systematic shutdown of solar is being coordinated across the nation by state Public Service Commissions. We here in Louisiana think we are being singled out by a vindictive commissioner that drummed up support from a couple of his partners. Actually, this is part of a much bigger national assault being coordinated by the well-funded utilities. Here is the latest sabotage happening in Nevada from a news article in Solar Industry magazine:
PUC Ruling Could ‘Retroactively Sabotage’ Solar Investments In Nevada
|in News Departments > Policy Watch|
The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) has approved an order proposed by Commissioner David Noble that will implement new rates for NV Energy customers who participate in net energy metering.
The order will transition all small commercial and residential net metering customers to a cost-based rate structure over the next four years to eliminate what the PUCN calls “unreasonable” cost shifts between ratepayers without resulting in any additional profits to NV Energy.
Some solar companies have spoken out against the proposed decision, including SolarCity, whose CEO, Lyndon Rive, called it “reckless.”
“The decision would retroactively sabotage the investments Nevadans have already made in solar, even though they were encouraged by their government to make those investments,” Rive explained. He continued by saying that Nevada will “become the first state out of 44 with net metering to take a step backward, not forward.”
Specifically, the following changes are included in the order:
- Separate ratepayer classes for all small commercial and residential net metering customers to ensure no cost shift to other ratepayers;
- Excess energy produced through net metering systems (e.g., rooftop solar energy systems) will be compensated at the wholesale market rate;
- An increase to the fixed charge and corresponding decrease to the volumetric commodity charge to reduce inequities among net metering customers;
- An optional time-of-use pricing option to allow net metering customers to take advantage of energy generation that occurs during peak and off-peak demand periods; and
- Incremental implementation of new rates over four years.
NV Energy will calculate the exact amounts of the rates based on the PUCN’s instructions. The new rates will be filed for final review within seven days of the order’s effective date.
Greg Butterfield, CEO of Vivint Solar, said, “The state of Nevada will lose jobs, economic output and consumer choice, while protecting the interests of an entrenched monopoly, NV Energy, and its out-of-state owner, Berkshire Hathaway Energy.”
The Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC) is going to authorize $107,760 for a one time “study” to changing the rules of Net Metering. (We’re calling this Net Metering 2.0) This dollar amount would buy 1,197,333 kilowatt-hours (kwh) of electricity at $.09/kwh. That’s almost 1.2 Megawatts! (I don’t know about you but I’d take the kilowatts over a study!)
We estimate that a small Louisiana solar home generates about 100 kwh of “excess” solar power a month. It is called excess only because it couldn’t be used at the time it was produced. (Most customers use it later in the day, just not that instant). Why would anyone want net metering killed?
This wasted $107,760 “study” money is the same as 1000 solar homes giving away 100 kwh excess solar generation each month for a whole year! Now, does that put this all in perspective for you?
Can DEMCO Legally Steal Solar? This is the question many people are asking. Any DEMCO homeowners that installed solar after July 13, 2015 have been told that they will no longer get true “net” metering. (NET metering by law is where you are charged for the NET difference between what you produce with solar and consume)
The “net” meter will be installed by DEMCO, and the homeowner will be grid connected, but any instantaneous excess generation will be kept by DEMCO. They have told their “members” that they aren’t doing net metering anymore since they reached 0.5% capacity per the Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC). Read it here: demco net metering
Unfortunately, according to PURPA (the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act of 1978), utilities must, at a minimum, credit a producer of power the wholesale rate. DEMCO says no. DEMCO will take it and resell it at retail to other “members” without any credit to the solar owners that paid for the solar to produce the power! Sounds illegal, right?
The Louisiana Solar Energy Society (LSES) along with the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) filed a formal complaint with the LPSC over a year and a half ago (on July 28, 2014) to bring violations like these to light with other utilities. (Almost a year and a half ago and a year before DEMCO did this) Read here:
The LPSC responded:
What do we think they are doing? Probably by ignorance of federal law they are pocketing thousands of solar homeowner kilowatts and reselling them to other members for profit.
What will happen next? DEMCO will probably stall out responding to the complaints about this until the LPSC establishes new rules for Net Metering in early 2016.
Until then, thanks DEMCO. Way to go.
They’ve Done it Now – Entergy Ends Net Metering in LA
by Jeff Shaw 11/25/15
As quietly as possible, in a 1:30 PM afternoon email on the day before Thanksgiving, Entergy announces that they will no longer give full credit for solar power returned to them from solar customers. The change takes place on January 1, 2016 for all new customers. This was based on the most recent LPSC meeting vote (3-2) on 11/18/15 to accept the Administrative Law Judge recommendation from 3/17/15 which approved the LPSC staff calculations of Net Metering. Despite simple proof that I provided showing that they were wrong, they approved it anyway.
This proves that:
1. Utilities hate solar because they can’t figure out how to make money on it.
2. Some LPSC members vote for what the utilities want, because the utilities contribute to them.
3. Regardless what the overwhelming majority of people wanted, they were overruled.
This means that:
1. The Louisiana law that I wrote in 2003 which started solar adoption here has been overturned.
2. This was done by the LPSC without any Legislative direction to do so.
3. It is following a nationwide trend by utilities to stop solar.
Contact us at Gulf South Solar on how we can make solar WORK FOR YOU despite Entergy’s move to stop you.
Here’s the official details: (click to enlarge and read)
I Want to Get Off the Grid!
Typically we get the calls in September right after the hottest month in Louisiana, which is August. They start by announcing “I want to get off the grid!” 99% of these people actually mean something totally different than what they are saying.
When we ask them why, they typically say “I just got my August electric bill in and it was double because it was over 100 degrees most of the month with no rain, and I like my house cool, and now I hate Entergy for sending me this bill, so I want to go off grid and never pay them a dime again”!
Obviously this is not an off-grid customer, nor will they ever be one, I am sorry to say.
If they call and say “I want to get off the grid” and we ask them why, and they say “I’m building an energy efficient home with all energy efficient appliances”, we know they are serious. Off grid living is different from grid connected, grid-tied battery backup living, net-zero living, or even grid-zero living. Many people confuse these. Off grid living is a lifestyle and choice often influenced by the cost of electricity, cost or impossibility of running electricity to a desired location. We have customers happily living like this so I can personally tell you it can be done and we can do it.
If a customer wants to try to live “off-grid” or learn how to live off-grid, we have a system for them. It is called GridZero. This allows them to put their critical loads on a separate electrical sub-panel and power them primarily with solar. Their central A/C and other heavy loads remain connected to the grid as usual, and they begin to feel more independent. Eventually they may be able to live without the central A/C, relying more on zone cooling with a window unit or mini-split.
If a customer wants to lower their bills and rely less on the grid, we have a system for them. It is called “Grid Tied”. We design a system that matches their usage, and that fits within their budget, and simply provides solar power to their home whenever the sun is shining. We can even get them to annually average close to a zero electric bill.
Most often this is what they really want. No lifestyle change. No massive battery bank. They want a peaceful coexistence with the public utility company they choose to blame for their excess power consumption.
What do you want? It’s a great day for solar! Give us a call at Gulf South Solar, 225-932-0035
Thanks – Jeff Shaw – NABCEP Certified Installer
The History of Solar in Louisiana
The history of solar in Louisiana is very colorful one, and I look forward to telling it one day in detail. It involves politicians, criminals, get-rich-quick schemes, and even some great people! For now, I’ll just outline the milestones in timeline format so you can see the bigger picture of what has happened. I cover the span of 1999 – present, since there was no activity to speak of in Louisiana before the Louisiana Solar Energy Society (LSES) was formed. It’s broken into three slides so click on the sections below to enlarge.
It is official. (Signed by the governor on 6/19/15) (originally posted here 6/17/15)
1. HB779 is law – The systems installed after 7/1/15 may get a maximum $10k tax credit (down from $12,500). “May” is because of #2.
2. The annual tax credit is capped at $10 million per fiscal year for systems sold that calendar year. There is a $25M total program cap.
3. $10 million total credits will be issued in 2016 (for 2015 systems) starting in 1/1/16 based on the order in which they are received. When the 2016 funds run out, any credits remaining will roll to the front of the line for the $10M of 2017 funds. The $5M remaining in the 2018 budget will be available for the remaining credits, and if there are more credits than funds the funds will be dispersed pro-rata.
4. This information has been confirmed by the Louisiana Department of Revenue and a “Revenue Information Bulletin” was issued with more detail on the credit.
Most importantly, file early next year to get your place in line for your credit.
Background: Here’s what happened that got us here. Representative Ted James House Bill 510 (to kill the solar tax credit and possibly leave more money for his pet projects) did not make it out of the House. Nice work everybody!
We supported the Ponti Bill – House Bill 779 , which made it out of the house (with amendments). True, it cuts our solar tax credit 20% but was supported by the solar industry to help the state budget by saving millions and saving the solar tax credit. However with the senate finance committee amendments totaling $44 million to allow leasing for 2 more years, the bill did not save much.
The leasing lobby, assisted by idiots trying to help, caused the Ponti bill to be amended to GIVE leasing $25M PLUS $19M for their “first of the year” sales. That’s $44M for basically ONE COMPANY, POSIGEN.
Some have estimated that $19M of the $25M was already installed by sales companies before the legislation was changed. If this is accurate then that would leave $6M to be shared by 200 contractors customers over 2 years.
$6M credit = $12M Sales (at 50% credit). Divided that by $20k systems = 600 systems. Divided by 200 companies statewide licensed to install = 3 systems they can sell. To make matters worse, this is over a 2 year period, since only $10M is paid out a year. That brings it to 1 system sold per year for each contractor.
Would you like to guess the number of business closures, lay-offs, drop in permits, drop in sales tax payments, drop in local purchases, etc. this idiotic move caused July 1, 2015? (answer = most all)
***Update (10/22/15) – we are currently meeting and working with LDR to publish an official estimate of the remaining tax credit and we will post this when it is available.
****Update 5/9/16) Based on the totals LDR has published, over $33M in credits for sold 2015 solar systems are pending. There were only $10M available for 2015, and $15M after that, so goodbye credits. When you look at the “leased” $$$ only $3.3M has been paid, and they claim it monthly.
THIS MEANS… The state divided $50M “down the middle” for sold and leased systems. There were a hundred solar installers and only one “leaser”. The money should have been divided more like $45M / $5M.
THE ONLY LOGICAL SOLUTION…. would be for the legislature, in the next special session, to pool the money (sales and leasing), and PAY OUT ALL THE 2015 tax refunds and with the funds available. Shut it down, pocket the $7M and call it a day.