Through the expansion of our partnership with Partners in Health (PIH), SELF installed a 10 kW solar electric generating system for the electrification of the new Village Health Works (VHW) Clinic in the remote village of Kigutu, in southern Burundi. Doctors and medical staff now have the vital electricity needed to treat patients suffering from HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis.

Landlocked between the states of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Tanzania— Burundi is ranked among the poorest country by the World Bank with 68% of its population living below the poverty line and over half of its children not attending school. Concurrently, Burundi struggled with public health crises ranging from staggering infant mortality rates, disease, to severe understaffing of medical personnel in the hospitals and clinics throughout the country.

VHW is striving to improve the healthcare infrastructure of rural Burundi. In 2007, VHW built a new clinic in Kigutu that was expected to serve 60,000 people in the community and surrounding area. While the construction of the new clinic was a substantial leap in access to medical care for the region, the long-term success of the clinic was dependent upon the implementation of a sustainable and reliable power source— connecting to the national power grid was not an option, considering its geographic isolation.

After working with VHW staff members, SELF helped to determine an energy system that would best suit the clinic’s needs. The pair decided that a solar-diesel hybrid system was the best solution for their given situation. SELF engineered a 10kW solar electric system that provides over 90% of the power needed for the clinic. This system is designed to have most of the charging be done by the sun, while having diesel generator back-up in the event of prolonged overcast days or unforeseen issues arise. The hybrid system was implemented to assist in minimizing costs— especially in the context of escalating oil expenses. SELF was also able to reduce long-term maintenance costs for the clinic by installing a monitoring system that allows technicians to remotely track the solar array’s performance.

This system will supply vital electricity to the clinic to ensure that physicians and staff can provide quality medical care to their patients. SELF’s solar installation met the immediate and near-term needs of the Kigutu clinic. As the clinic expands its services and accumulates equipment, however, the clinic will need to add more solar modules to supply additional power.

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Since 1990, SELF has completed projects in more than 25 countries and pioneered unique applications of solar power such as for drip irrigation in Benin, health care in Haiti, telemedicine in the Amazon rain forest, online learning in South Africa and microenterprise development in Nigeria.

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