WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Solar Electric Light Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit working to eliminate energy poverty through the use of solar power, announced the successful installation of solar electric systems at 11 healthcare facilities and one hospital along the southwest coast of Haiti. Through collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank and the Government of Haiti, the systems, with a combined power output of just over 38 kW, will help to improve the quality of medical services provided to more than 170,000 Haitians by powering lights, microscopes, centrifuges, autoclaves, vaccine refrigerators and other lifesaving equipment.
Almost immediately after the systems were made fully operational a host of benefits were being seen, including a birth at night. In addition, one of the clinics is now saving money from no longer having to purchase and transport the fuel previously needed to power a vaccine refrigerator, since it is now connected to the solar system on site.
“A doctor cannot be expected to perform lifesaving surgeries at night without lights or power for medical equipment,” said Bob Freling, SELF’s executive director. “Now, through the provision of reliable solar power, doctors can treat patients at night, diagnose patients any time and provide vaccines to patients in need — all while saving money by decreasing or eliminating the need for diesel fuel.”
The long-term operation of these installations relies on the routine maintenance needed to ensure each system is operating at maximum performance, so SELF hired and trained eight local technicians to maintain the systems at all the sites. They will also train energy managers and medical staff on how to operate and monitor each clinic’s system on a daily basis.
“The sustainability of our systems is critical to all of our projects,” said Freling. “In a country continuing to rebuild, it is our responsibility to not only invest in and implement effective energy technologies, but we must also invest in its people.”
SELF’s partnership with the IDB and the Government of Haiti began in 2010 with plans to install solar streetlights at two transition camps in Port-au-Prince. In 2011, SELF successfully installed 68 solar powered streetlights in the tent camp of Caradeux, managed by Operasyon Men Nan Men, and 32 solar streetlights in Petionville Club managed by the J/P Haitian Relief Organization, a nongovernmental organization founded by Sean Penn.