Bringing solar to rural health clinics

In 2008, SELF teamed up with Partners in Health (PIH), an international medical organization committed to improving the health of marginalized communities. In order to provide optimal care on a project in Lesotho, the clinics needed to find a way to consistently supply electricity to medical equipment and computers.

The small, mountainous nation of Lesotho has been heavily affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic; approximately 23% of its population directly suffers from the virus or other infectious diseases, like tuberculosis. As a result, medical personnel, working with as few as 5 physicians per 100,000 people have faced an enormous challenge of providing adequate medical services while working in the absence of modern medical facilities and lacking the proper staffing. With many of the rural health clinics going without the necessary equipment and resources to perform health assessments and provide proper care, patients are motivated seek treatment from clinics elsewhere, often traveling great distances to do so.

To address this problem, SELF and PIH found ways to incorporate solar power into the PIH clinics in order to supply electricity to a network of computers connected by VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) satellites that reliably transfer video, voice, and data. The first phase of the partnership led to the installation of 2 kW solar electric systems at each of the four PIH clinics. In 2010, phase two of the project was implemented, adding 3kW of power to each of the phase one systems, in addition to 2 kW solar systems to the remaining three PIH clinics in Lesotho.

The implementation of new communications systems, improved access to health records, a new x-ray machine, extended run time of medical equipment, and critical lighting has not only supplemented the PIH medical staff’s ability to practice lifesaving modern medicine, but it has also provided the people of Lesotho with certainty and peace of mind that their communities will have access to the medical resources necessary to combat disease. 

This project was made possible in large part by the SunPower Foundation, a nonprofit organization created by the SunPower Corporation to work with global partners to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy.

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SELF is a global leader in the fight against energy poverty. Since 1990, we’ve pioneered unique applications for solar energy, powering progress on food security, health care, education, gender equity, and more. 

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