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Guyana: Micobee and Tumatumari

Case - guyana map

Map of Guyana and its neighbors.

Micobee and Tumatumari are small health clinics in Guyana separated by about five miles. These facilities serve a resident population of 360 as well as 300 miners from small villages along the river. Both facilities are attended by a part time local health worker. These facilities are typical of the large number of health posts scattered throughout the interior of Guyana and most other developing countries.

 

Current Power Situation and Challenges

The health facility at Tumatumari has been built recently and has no power supply. There is a small solar system which has recently been installed at Micobee and was on the verge of failure. The solar system was being used to power a communication radio, a light inside the building, and a security light outside the building. An examination of this solar system highlights several of the key reasons for the poor track record of solar system sustainability in Guyana. These issues are addressed below:

 

Lack of Training for Local User

The local health worker had received no training in the maintenance of the system and was instructed not to touch the batteries. In case of system failure the health worker calls the Regional Health Officer (RHO) who sends technicians from Georgetown. The technicians were out to fix the system six months ago. The water was critically low in many, if not most, of the cells. Since the plates of the batteries were exposed to air, it is likely that they will no longer be able to be brought back to optimum performance. No distilled water was at the facility or in the community to refill the batteries.

 

Improper System Design

The batteries were too large for the system. Once the batteries are takento their 50% charge level (which is normal design) it would take several weeks of continuous charging to fully recharge them with the small panel. It is likely that at best, the batteries would exist in a persistent discharged state, which will shorten their life.

The solar panel is mounted on the metal roof, with no air circulation under it. This produces excessive heating of the panel which likely reduces its efficiency to 60% or 70% of its rated value. The 300 watt inverter utilized for this project has no protective coating on the circuit board and experience in other countries indicates that it does not perform well in humid environments. There appears to be no real need for the inverter, since it is only running small lighting load, which could also be taken care of with DC lights.

The charge controller used (C35), is a 35 amp charge controller, and does not have low voltage disconnect capabilities included with it. Normally, with a single panel system, a charge controller that is rated 10 amps, with built in low voltage disconnecting means would be utilized here.

The fact that the charge controller and batteries are oversized for the panel indicate that either (a) the designers of the system were not fully informed on proper system design, or (b) the system originally had more panels - that would support the larger charge controller and batteries - and they have been removed.

 

Typical Load Requirements of Small Health Posts
QtyLoadWattsHrs/DayWhrs/Day

Option 1

1

CB Radio-Transmitter

20

1

20

1

CB Radio-Receiver

10

6

60

1

CF Light

20

6

120

1

Security Light

20

6

120

1

LED Light

1

10

10

 

Total

330

Option 2 - all items above, plus:

1

Vaccine Refrigerator

 

 

650

 

Total

980

Options for Improving Energy Supply

The energy demands of health outposts are typically quite similar and can be classified in two categories depending on the need for refrigeration. These loads are detailed in the adjacent table.

The best option for powering these loads is a properly designed, installed and maintained solar system. The costs for the PV system to power Option 1 would be $1,500 while the larger system to power a clinic with a refrigerator (Option 2) would cost $4,500.

The economics of solar power for this size system are similar to the larger system described for Mahdia, with solar power costing about half of diesel generator produced power over the 20 year lifetime of the system.

While provision of power to these facilities is straight forward from a technological point of view, the institutional support structure needed to make these systems sustainable requires considerable attention and development. Before launching an off-grid health clinic electrification program, the Ministry of Health should develop a strategy which takes a holistic view of the needs of all health posts in the country and prioritizes the facilities to receive power based on a pre-determined set of criteria. To date it appears facility selection has been done in an ad-hoc manner.

The Ministry of Health should also institute design standards for this system. Finally, a detailed training program and maintenance protocols should be established to ensure long-term system sustainability.