Single Blog Title

This is a single blog caption

Finding the best energy solutions for the developing world

Entrance to Hopital Adventiste d’Haiti. (Photo by Change Catalyst.)

Entrance to Hopital Adventiste d’Haiti. (Photo by Change Catalyst.)

“I am committed to making this a beautiful place. Soon.” 

-Daniel Williams, Operations Officer at Hopital Adventiste d’Haiti

During our recent trip to Haiti, Ron (, the Change Catalyst ( team (our storytelling consultants) and I visited Hopital Adventiste d’Haiti (, a hospital I visited when I first came to Haiti three years ago. Since that trip, I have done some minor consulting there and I wanted to see what it looked like now.

The difference was incredible. When I was here after the earthquake, the first sight was the tent city surrounding the hospital where patients and families packed the hospital’s grounds. Walking around three years later it felt like a completely different place. The hallways full of broken bodies are gone, along with the tents on the roof where the medical volunteers lived.

Entrance to Hopital Adventiste d’Haiti. (Photo by Change Catalyst.)

Entrance to Hopital Adventiste d’Haiti.
(Photo by Change Catalyst.)

Seeing new opportunities

No longer needed for tents, there is now a most delicious roof full of possibilities for solar installation. Solar installation would ease one of the facility’s biggest problems – energy. Ron has been working on a proposal to help with their energy issues.

But another big problem we saw here, along with many other hospitals in Haiti, was the waste issue. They have no incinerator, as they can’t afford it. So, they are taking the trash out to a big pit, dousing it with diesel fuel, and burning it.

So my mind has been set on finding a solution to the waste disposal problems at the Haitian hospitals we have visited on this trip. The best model, the Holy Grail model, is to find a way to use WTE (waste-to-energy) to generate energy.

{photo caption} The waste pit is dug into a slope just below the local elementary school. In their defense, they try to mostly burn on weekends, when the kids are not in school. But not always. (Photos by Walt Vernon and Change Catalyst.)

A new way of thinking about energy

I have been more or less drummed out of the orthodox green healthcare community for daring to suggest it but look – today this hospital burns its trash doused in diesel fuel. The fumes waft into the school where they are creating the next generation of cancer cases, which are growing at an alarming rate. At the same time the hospital’s voracious appetite for energy forces them to spend more money on energy than on medicine. 

The orthodox green hospital people would tell the hospital to use an autoclave, and that would solve the problem.  The problem with an autoclave is this:  at the end of its cycle, the waste would still remain to be disposed of, albeit in a now non-biologically hazardous state. And the autoclaves would not deal with chemical and other kinds of waste. Another problem with the autoclave is that it would not offset the generation of power using diesel fuel – it would require yet MORE diesel fuel.  This costs the hospitals even more money and creates more diesel emissions.

This is where innovation comes in. The western paradigm needs to be rethought for the developing world.  In this case I have chosen to walk the unorthodox path and to dare suggest we encourage the development of on-site waste to energy systems.

The waste-to-energy solution that could change the world

I want systems that eliminate forever the wastes produced by hospital facilities as they heal the people they serve. Systems that will burn (or convert) the waste cleaner than the diesel-doused pit by the school that we saw at the Adventist Hospital. Systems that can, in their ideal state, generate electricity and eliminate the cost and the fumes from running generators.

But I am not there. Yet. Conventional WTE systems use energy in the form of heat and typically use the heat to warm water or space. Now in Haiti neither hot water nor heated air is of much, if any value. Indeed, hot air they have in abundance! And so, the trick will be to develop a way to use the heat to generate electricity, for all energy here is electric energy and all energy is locally generated.

So, my challenge to you:  help me figure out how to take the output from a small, on-site waste disposal system, and convert it into electricity. I would love to see a team of Mazzetti engineers work on solving this puzzle.

If we do, we will change the world.

Leave a Reply