DR Congo powers rural hospitals with solar energy for essential surgery
London, Feb. 27, 2020 (AltAfrica)-Two hospitals in the rural villages of Kigulube and South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been fitted with solar power to facilitate essential health services, particularly, emergency and routine surgery
The installation at each of the two hospitals consists of 100 solar panels and seven batteries capable of accumulating the necessary energy to run the facilities for two full days.
Each of the storage units has a lifespan of at least five years, although it may be two or three times longer. This type of assembly also includes a unit capable of controlling both the charge and the release of energy from each of the batteries, which greatly extends their lifespan.
In addition, the control unit is able to detect anomalies and can be operated remotely with an internet connection, so technicians can monitor the system from anywhere in the world.
Everything is designed to guarantee a continuous and autonomous energy supply, but in the unlikely event of failure, there is a back-up diesel generator ready to take over and maintain the hospital’s power supply at all times.
“This solar-powered facility makes a big difference to the treatment we can offer patients in Kigulube hospital,” says Dr. Pacifique Kapimbu, director of the hospital. “Before, we sometimes had to operate in the dark because there was no lighting anywhere in the centre. Now, all the rooms will have electricity to ensure adequate medical treatment for patients.”
Although solar energy has been around for decades, until now, existing power systems and batteries made it unviable in terms of price, capacity, and lifespan for uses such as powering a remote hospital in the hills of South Kivu. Batteries that could have been transported and maintained in such a challenging environment did not have enough storage capacity to guarantee the operation of complex biomedical equipment over long periods.
The availability of new technologies has changed this. “We are using the latest generation lithium batteries that have not even been commercialized on a large scale,” says Balbastre, who is part of the team providing Kigulube hospital with solar power.
Before installing a photovoltaic system in Kigulube hospital, MSF opened its first solar-powered hospital in South Kivu a year ago, in the Kusisa area in the mountainous Ziralo region.