BLUFFDALE — As many as 4 million homes in Japan still have no power after the earthquake and tsunami, but a Utah charity aims to turn the lights back on for 1,000 families.
The infrastructure for electricity is still shattered in the areas hardest hit by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the tsunami on March 11. But the sun still shines, so TIFIE Humanitarian will send portable solar units that can provide immediate power.
"Just being able to have lights to plug in, we find, adds such an element of safety to a family that's experienced something like a tsunami or an earthquake, or any sort of emergency situation," said Halen Seevinck, operations manager of TIFIE Humanitarian.
TIFIE stands for Teaching Individuals and Families Independence through Enterprise. The organization is partnered on this project with Goal Zero, which makes a line of portable solar power kits. The electricity they produce will make a big difference for Japanese families still struggling without electricity.
"(The kits) consist of three components. We call it the collect, store, use," said Joe Atkin, president of Goal Zero.
The solar panel collects power and connects to the battery pack that stores power. The kits they will send to Japan cost about $180.
"Once the power is in here," Atkin said, pointing to the battery pack about the size of a flower vase, "they can use it for any devices like cellphones, laptops, lighting systems."
The power pack will run high-efficiency LED lights 50 hours on one charge. It will also run a laptop for six hours or charge a cellphone 30 times on one full charge.
As soon as a family puts the solar panel in the sun and plugs it in, the earthquake victims will get power right away. The light means a lot when the sun goes down.
"When there's no power, it's a scary place," Atkin said.
TIFIE sent kits to Haiti a year ago and has already delivered 300 smaller kits to Japan. It will work with partners in Japan to deliver the kits directly to affected homes.
"In Utah when the power goes out, in a day or two it's back," Atkin said. "When a whole entire infrastructure is wiped out, it can be weeks, if not months."
TIFIE is taking contributions to increase the number of kits they'll send. If you would like to donate, go to www.tifie.org/japan