Solar Saving Lives in Ghana
Location/Club: Rotary Club of Accra-Spintex
In 2021, the Rotary Club of Accra-Spintex, in partnership with the Rotary Club of Rochester, Michigan, USA, installed a 5.2KVA solar power system at Alokpatsa Community Based Health Planning Services (CHPS) compound in the South Nkwanta district of the Oti Region of Ghana. This project exemplifies the win-win impact of climate action by advancing four of Rotary’s Areas of Focus: disease prevention, maternal and child health, economic and community development, and environment.
The Alokpatsa CHPS had been one of three rural CHPS compounds in the area without electricity. Community members die of snake bites and other causes because the CHPS facilities are unable to store vaccines and other medical supplies that require refrigeration. When Alokpatsa CHPS lacked electric power, health workers posted to this clinic had challenges staying there.
How it began
In 2018, Abdul Malik Chantimah, who was then district director at Nkwanta Health Directorate, requested quotes to provide a solar system to power the facility. Nortse Amartey Amarteifio, a member of our club whose company, Nocheski, provides solar solutions, also received the request and sent a quote. It however turned out that the clinic could not afford it.
He followed up to assess the need, after which he began talking to other Rotarians and clubs in a bid to raise the needed funds. One of the people he reached out to was Rhonda Panczyk, former member of the Rotary Club of Rochester, Michigan, USA who organized fundraising activities with her club to partner with the Rotary Club of Accra-Spintex to implement the project.
Project features and benefits
The project was completed and handed over on 15th October 2021. It included a complete electrical distribution system covering both the health facility and the residential facility, which are both on the same compound.
It is a 5kva- 5.4kwp solar power system with 21.12 kwh of storage, with 2 to 15 years’ warranty on various components of the system, as well as a 3-year maintenance contract. This is a smart system that generates reports to the contractor to ensure that the system works optimally and to detect faults that may come up. Nocheski Solar trained local electricians to be the first line of call and provide basic technical support and routine maintenance on the equipment.
The entire compound – including the clinic and the residential quarters for the healthcare team – was professionally wired with a complete electrical distribution system. It was provided with 14 automatic and manually switched streetlights, 36 bulbs, fans, etc. The cost was about $21,000, with $15,000 raised by the Rotary Club of Rochester, $6,000 in value donated by Nocheski, and project supervision by the Rotary Club of Accra-Spintex. The local community pitched in on the work and provided wooden poles for the lampposts, as well as some food and accommodations.
This solar project has brought a lot of life to the Alokpatsa CHPS. Better quality health delivery services are now available to over 3,000 people – mostly children – in one of the most deprived areas in Ghana. Clients such as pregnant women can come and deliver their babies in a well-lit environment without fearing being bitten by snakes, scorpions and other animals. The solar power installed also allows the clinic to finally use an autoclave /sterilizer that had been in storage for years due to lack of electricity. Solar is saving lives in Ghana!
Medical staff are reluctant to move from cities to off-grid facilities where it is so difficult to provide quality care. The problem of qualified health workers refusing to be posted to Alokpatsa will now become a thing of the past, and those who accept posting there will stay due to the improved working conditions.
The facility could generate some extra income from selling ice blocks to the villagers and the revenue could be used for system upgrades in the future. Training of volunteers has increased local participation and community involvement in the project. This increases the sustainability of the project. The volunteers’ new knowledge and skills could earn them some income in the future.
Nortse Amartey Amarteifio is now 2023-24 President-Elect of the Rotary Club of Accra-Spintex and a member of ESRAG’s Renewable Energy Task Force. He and RC Accra-Spintex Past President Eli Evans are visiting other clinics that lack electric power in hopes of launching more solar projects. “There are about 160 such rural hospitals without electricity in Ghana right now,” says P.E. Nortse of RC Accra-Spintex. “There is so much work to be done. It was a very fulfilling experience for me. I am thinking we could do smaller but high-quality solar systems for the other sites in the future. It’s very tough, but with God, everything is possible.”