Off-Grid Solar Is Showing Great Potential in the Electrification of Rural Clinics and Healthcare Centers
image credit: Solar Magazine
- Jul 21, 2020 10:26 am GMTJul 21, 2020 9:12 am GMT
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COVID-19 has spread around the globe. Thousands of humans get infected every day, and it is hard to predict when this situation may be well-controlled. The pandemic exerts great pressure on public medical resources, with the medical systems of some countries with the highest infection rates already approaching the verge of collapse (or already in failure).
Electricity is the premier necessity for the operation of a healthcare center. While it’s not worth a mention for the developed nations in this battle, there are still numerous small clinics and healthcare centers in rural regions facing a serious shortage of electricity.
It is reported that in India, where there are over 1 million Coronavirus cases as of July 21st, more than 39,000 sub-centers serving 230 million people in rural areas lack electricity. This severely impacts the country’s capacity to offer optimal health care to patients. On April 30, nearly 20 leaders from India’s think tanks and other organizations joined together and published an open letter calling for action to electrify the sub healthcare centers with decentralized, off-grid solar technology. Apparently, many benefits can be provided by these systems in any country, including:
- Supply electricity to run medical equipment for testing (nucleic acid tests, at least) and treatments. The off-grid solar systems are usually equipped with energy storage to ensure a long period of electricity supply, while the transport and storage of fuel is needed for conventional power generators.
- Deploy the off-grid power systems within hours for clinics newly established to serve patients in emerging infected communities. The modular and compact design of an off-grid solar system makes it easy to transport and install.
- Offer clean power to satisfy a clinic or sub healthcare center’s basic needs, even while ensuring a quiet environment for patients’ good rest. Conversely, a conventional fossil-fueled generator can cause air pollution and noise.
Actually, these advantages can be extended for constant utilization after the pandemic. But, from a long-term perspective, many challenges need to be addressed for sustainable use.
- Public-private and multinational cooperation is essential to push forward application, especially considering the relatively high upfront cost of the power systems to be covered in these developing regions.
- Specially designed organizations and correlated mechanisms should be set up, backed by the help of international associations and programs, in order to connect external reliable industry solution resources. The industry chains in the regions are generally not strong enough to independently conduct the domestic operation of the systems, including project design, equipment supply, maintenance, etc. From the governments’ standpoint, it’s no surprise that such support for these innovative and beneficial applications could not be fully and constantly realized, given that economic development is always the priority.
- Innovation in improving medical equipment’s energy efficiency is a must in order to increase the global accessibility of these resources, especially given the energy poverty issue in many countries.