Sierra Leone, devastated by Ebola with more than 14,000 cases reported between 2014 and 2016, and almost 4,000 lives lost, turns to renewable energy for its recovery efforts.
During the Ebola outbreak, the lack of power in small towns and villages worsened the conditions in which medical professionals were trying to combat the disease.
As part of the Ebola recovery efforts, the Government of Sierra Leone launched the Rural Renewable Energy Project, which aimed to strengthen energy infrastructure in these areas, improving essential services for over 300,000 residents.
The £34.5 million ($47,07 million) project was completed in several phases over a period of four years, with completion at the end of 2020.
Funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and implemented by United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), the Rural Renewable Energy Project represented a drive for clean energy access, together with the sustainable growth of the country’s energy capacity.
Life-saving services delivered one phase at a time
The first phase of the four-year project involved the installation of solar power at 54 community health centres across 12 districts of Sierra Leone – the benefits of which are already being felt – and was successfully completed in July 2017.
The second phase widened access to electricity to houses, schools and businesses in 50 rural villages, by expanding the existing health centre solar power stations, and installing distribution networks throughout each village – creating dozens of independent mini-grids.
As a strategic energy storage provider, Systems Sunlight supplied more than 2,200 Sunlight battery cells towards a hybrid system of 90 minigrids powered with renewable energy, for the electrification of these 50 communities in Sierra Leone, and provided technical assistance to the EPC company regarding technical details about the batteries.
The batteries included in the project were OPzV 1500Ah – 2V, 6V and 12V.
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Systems Sunlight’s acting sales director, Dimitri Panagiotou, commented: “The innovative design of our batteries provides an outstanding performance for cyclic and hybrid installations. This is largely through the use of tubular positive plates, a GEL form of electrolyte, a unique sliding pole design and a special alloys composition offering a 60% depth of discharge (DoD) life cycle of up to 2500 cycles for 2V cells and 2000 cycles for the 6V and 12V blocks installed.”
“This ensures long and reliable power cycles, which is important for rural health centres delivering critical care. The implementation is complex but transformative, and our teams on the ground were able to provide extensive technical information to ensure they were installed properly.”
Long-term advantages for health care
This project aims to strengthen energy infrastructure in order to provide better services to local people, while also helping rural communities to be better prepared in the event of a future epidemic.
It ensures that local health centres have a reliable power supply, meaning that in the evenings patients and medical staff have access to light.
Women giving birth at night will no longer be required to do so in the dark. Deliveries to the centres often take place at night, and access to light ensures supplies can be sorted properly when they arrive, and kept in good condition.
The project has also contributed to a more efficient working environment at the health centres, meaning more people receive the healthcare they need, and outreach to neighbouring communities to offer inoculations and related services are now much easier.