Solar Power at Kibuye

(By Caleb) 

It has been a busy summer in Kibuye.  Among the many comings and goings, regional conferences, the arrival of new teammates, etc. we welcomed a whole new level of power to Kibuye hill….solar power.  

It takes a team to bring something like this to fruition.  It all began with a group of electricians and solar experts working for a non-profit called International Technical Electric and Construction (ITEC).   ITEC installed a solar system about 25km from us for a partner organization.  They visited our hospital while here and asked if we had ever considered solar power for Kibuye Hope Hospital.  It was not too long after this that we began receiving only an hour of power per day from the national grid and diesel was becoming extremely hard to find. If diesel became available at a gas station 30km away, we had to first get a special letter from our Provincial Governor to allow us to buy a very limited quantity and then race to the station before it was all gone.  Lines at gas stations could reach one hundred cars long.  We had to cut way back on the number of hours we could provide power to the hospital. This had dramatic effects on patient care: those who needed oxygen could not get it, premature babies were not able to be warmed in incubators, and essential surgeries could not be performed, etc. We were becoming hamstrung.  

Something had to be done. 

In September of 2016, ITEC came to Kibuye for a preliminary survey.  This group of gentlemen immediately impressed us. They were professional, very knowledgeable, and delightful to have around.  In the following months ITEC proposed a solution they call a Power Pac: a 40-foot container that they build out and pre-wire in their warehouse in Pennsylvania complete with batteries, inverters, and switchgear. The solar panels, distribution wire, and mounting equipment are shipped in a separate container.  Our team held many discussions about this solution and finally decided this was right for Kibuye.   

A design based on current need and future growth was decided upon: 122.5 kW of solar panels, 90 kW of battery inverters, 120,000 Ah of batteries, 176 kW generator and a new transformer dedicated to the hospital.   The design could also be easily expandable as the hospital grows.     

A preliminary planning sketch

The piers for the Power Pac were poured and we waited for the right time to level the corn field to prepare for the solar array
Volunteers at ITEC spent countless man-hours throughout 2017 and early 2018 purchasing equipment, building and testing the Power Pac.  The two containers shipped from Pennsylvania in March of this year and came via New York City, Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Suez canal, changed ships in India, the port of Dar es Salaam and then finally by road to Burundi.  

To our great relief the containers arrived safely in early June 

Greg Sund diligently "supervising" the unloading of the solar panels

The Power Pac was set in place by two cranes, one of which must have been from the WW2 era. 

The container moving attracted lots of curious onlookers 

The team laying out the supports for the solar array under the watchful eye of Jack Myhre, our highly-skilled engineering intern

Digging postholes by hand

Dressed in his awesome pink bathrobe, our charismatic and resourceful welder puts the final touches on the array supports

Solar panel supports ready for the arrival of the ITEC team.

Power Pac and new generator covered and prepared. 

Work commences

Strong and willing hands.

Solar array going up panel by panel. 

First array installed

Always donning proper safety equipment, these men are pulling the supply wire to the hospital.

350 panel array complete!  

Inside the Power Pac 15 battery inverters hang on the right side...

....and the switchgear and battery bank on the left.  

Just a few of the 28 ITEC expert volunteers who came to install the Power Pac  

We have been enjoying seamless 24/7 power at the hospital for almost 4 weeks now.  The oxygen concentrator can satisfy the endless demand, incubators stay warm, operations can happen at all hours of the day or night, lab results never have to wait and x-rays can be taken when needed.   The impact of this work on the ability of Kibuye Hope Hospital to care for patients will surely be felt for years to come.    

We are very grateful to many for the their hand in this project: 

Funding: African Mission Healthcare Foundation and the Christian Broadcasting Network, Isaiah Mission Foundation, David Pyott Foundation, Brenden and Jenece Hanks and a number of other generous individuals.   

ITEC Volunteers: 28 men and women from North America who came and served this community with their skills and always did so with a smile.

Jack Myhre: Engineering Intern working at Kibuye for the summer did a vast majority of the site preparation planning and design.

 (NB:  A majority of these pictures came from the ITEC blog which chronicles the 5-week installation process) 

1 comment:

Rebekah said...

Praise God for this long dreamed of day coming to fruition!!