UB Law School Students Propose Renewable Energy Solutions for Haiti

Release Date: April 13, 2010

BUFFALO, N.Y. – University at Buffalo Law School students will suggest ways renewable energy resources can reshape Haiti's future in a free, public forum 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 14 at the Cellino and Barnes Conference Center, 509 John Lord O'Brian Hall, on UB's North Campus.

The forum, "A Brighter Future for Haiti: The Power of Renewable Energy," includes presentations from three UB law students who will discuss the work they produced in the last year for the Solar Liberty Foundation and the YWCA of Niagara County on the need for renewable energy resources in less-developed nations, and ways to provide a benefit to Western New York. It is sponsored by the UB Law School's Clinical Legal Education Program.

The students are enrolled in the UB Law School's Environment and Development Clinic and the Women, Children and Social Justice Clinic.

"The clinic projects demonstrate that providing solar energy to Haiti not only improves the health and lives of its people, but also benefits the global environment," says Robert S. Berger, a professor at the Law School, director of the Environment and Development Clinic, and a proponent of renewable resources including wind power's potential for providing low-cost, environmentally friendly electricity to New York.

"The presentations will offer creative ideas for turning these environmental benefits into funding opportunities to support the important work of the Solar Liberty Foundation."

Students in the Environment and Development Clinic throughout the academic year have studied the viability of using solar energy to address energy needs in Haiti. Working with the Solar Liberty Foundation, a local, non-profit organization, the clinic analyzed the impact of current fuel sources in Haiti, the pervasive lack of electricity and the consequences of the lack of electrification on rural areas of the country, particularly health clinics.

"One of the goals of this event is to showcase the multifaceted work of UB Law School's clinics in addressing issues experienced by our community-based clients and applying them to global concerns," says Suzanne Tomkins, director of the Women, Children and Social Justice Clinic. "This cross-clinic collaboration is essential to address the complex social issues confronting people in Western New York and in Haiti."

The forum includes a welcome and remarks by Berger and Tomkins, as well as research reports by UB Clinical Legal Education students Tomas Callocchia, Jeanne Lane and Joanna McKeegan. Representatives of the YWCA of Niagara and the Solar Liberty Foundation also will speak. The students hope to add to the work already being done in Haiti by the Solar Liberty Foundation.

"We have many new projects in the works in Haiti, which include providing

solar electrification (using solar photovoltaic panels to convert the sun's energy into electrical power) to an orphanage of 68 girls who are currently living outside in makeshift tents," says Paige L. Mecca, executive director of the Solar Liberty Foundation and a UB Law School alumna.

"We will be providing a solar electrification system to a community center in rural Haiti as part of a new village, which includes a university," Mecca says. "We are also providing solar electrification to a community kitchen project."

In September 2009, the Solar Liberty Foundation provided a solar electrification system to a Partners in Health clinic in Hinche, Haiti, Mecca says. "Without the use of solar electrification, the clinic's power needs came from a diesel generator," she says. "After the earthquake, we provided a shipment of solar cookers to the Haitian Bouske organization to displaced individuals in Port-au-Prince."

The Women, Children and Social Justice clinic focused this year on creating a business plan for solar cooker assembly based in Carolyn's House, a facility of the YWCA of Niagara County. The proposal is to create an assembly production facility for the development and manufacturing of solar cookers the Solar Liberty Foundation will distribute around the world in less-developed nations.

Since its founding in 1887, the UB Law School -- the State University of New York's only law school -- has established an excellent reputation and is regarded widely as a leader in legal education. Its cutting-edge curriculum provides both a strong theoretical foundation and the practical tools graduates need to succeed in a competitive marketplace. A special emphasis on interdisciplinary studies, public service and opportunities for hands-on clinical education has placed the school among the nation's premier public law schools

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