Solar Energy for Hospitals & Biomedical Research Centres in Sub-Saharan Africa: When does it make sense?

Solar energy has been growing exponentially worldwide due to its numerous advantages and ability to meet the demands of a growing population. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the need for reliable power in hospitals and biomedical research centres has become increasingly crucial. This article will explore the reasons behind this need, the benefits of solar energy, and the optimal conditions for implementing solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, battery energy storage solutions (BESS), PV + diesel hybrid systems, and solar-powered medical oxygen production.

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Why Hospitals and Biomedical Research Centres?

Hospitals and biomedical research centres play a vital role in the health and well-being of people in Sub-Saharan Africa. They are responsible for providing critical medical care, conducting life-saving research, and creating a sustainable healthcare infrastructure. As such, they require continuous, reliable, and efficient power to run their operations and support their mission.

The Need for a Reliable Power Supply

The lack of a reliable power supply in Sub-Saharan Africa poses significant challenges to hospitals and research centres. Frequent power outages disrupt essential services, equipment, and research[1]. This can lead to the loss of valuable data, life-threatening delays in care, and increased operational costs. Moreover, relying on the local grid can subject valuable client appliances to power fluctuations and diminish resilience in response to fuel price hikes or political uncertainties.

The need for a stable and efficient energy source is essential in addressing these challenges and ensuring the effective functioning of healthcare institutions.

The Benefits of Solar Energy

Solar energy offers several benefits for hospitals and biomedical research centres in Sub-Saharan Africa:

  1. Reliability: Solar energy systems can provide a stable and continuous power supply, reducing the risk of outages and minimizing disruptions to services and research.
  2. Cost-effectiveness: Solar energy systems have significantly reduced in cost over the past decade. This makes it more affordable for healthcare institutions to invest in solar power.
  3. Sustainability: Solar energy is a clean, renewable resource that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote environmentally friendly practices.
  4. Scalability: Solar energy systems can be easily expanded to meet the growing demands of hospitals and research centres.
  5. Simplicity and Local Expertise: Solar energy employs simple technology that can be easily maintained and learned by local personnel, reducing dependency on external experts.
  6. High-Quality Energy: Solar power generation is stable and controlled by advanced technology inverters, ensuring a consistent and high-quality energy supply for critical operations.
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When to add Solar PV?

It is important to consider the following factors when deciding when to add solar PV to hospitals and research centres:

  1. Location: Areas with abundant sunshine and minimal shading are ideal for solar PV installations.
  2. Energy demand: Understanding the energy consumption patterns of the institution will help determine the appropriate size of the solar PV system.
  3. Available space: The facility must have enough space for the installation of solar panels and related equipment.
  4. Financial incentives: Governments and organizations may offer incentives, grants, or tax credits for the installation of solar PV systems, making it more affordable. Ask us more to find out current financing opportunities.

When to add Battery Storage?

Battery storage is useful when:

  1. Grid instability is prevalent, and backup power is crucial for maintaining essential services and research activities.
  2. Energy demand fluctuates throughout the day, and the stored energy can be used during peak demand periods.

Enhance the share of renewable energy compared to direct photovoltaic (PV) self-consumption.

Types of Battery Energy Storage Solutions (BESS)

Different chemistries of battery energy storage solutions can be used for hospitals and research centres, including:

  1. Lead-acid batteries: These are a cost-effective option but have a shorter lifespan and lower energy density compared to other battery types.
  2. Lithium-ion batteries: They offer a higher energy density, longer lifespan, and better performance but come at a higher cost.
  3. Flow batteries: These batteries are well-suited for large-scale energy storage and can provide longer discharge durations, but they are more complex and expensive than other options.

Hybridation with the Utility Grid and/or Existing Diesel Gensets

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Integrating solar PV systems with the utility grid and/or existing diesel gensets allows for a more stable and flexible power supply. Hybrid systems can optimize energy generation and consumption, reducing reliance on diesel fuel and lowering operational costs. These systems can be designed to prioritize solar power,  utilizing grid electricity as a secondary source and resorting to diesel generators only when essential.

Additional uses: Solar Energy for the Production of Medical Oxygen

Medical oxygen is essential in hospitals for various treatments and procedures. In many Sub-Saharan African hospitals, oxygen supplies can be unreliable and costly. Solar energy can be used to power medical oxygen production systems, providing a sustainable and cost-effective solution. By harnessing the sun’s energy, hospitals can produce their own oxygen, reducing dependency on external suppliers and ensuring a steady supply for critical healthcare needs.

Solar energy presents a promising solution for hospitals and biomedical research centres in Sub-Saharan Africa, offering a reliable, cost-effective, and sustainable power source. Assessing the specific needs and circumstances of each institution is crucial in determining the optimal time and method for implementing a solar PV system with or without battery storage or hybridizing with the utility grid or with a genset. By embracing solar energy, healthcare institutions can overcome the challenges of unreliable power supplies and contribute to the long-term development of the region’s healthcare infrastructure.

Are you ready to explore the potential of solar energy for your hospital or biomedical research centre in Sub-Saharan Africa? Our team of experts is here to help you assess your needs, design the optimal solution, and provide a techno-economic proposal.

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