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Guyana: Mahdia District Hospital

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Map of Guyana and its neighbors.

Mahdia district hospital in Guyana serves a resident population of 1000 which swells to 4000 with the addition of workers from local mining operations. It is a priority area for the PEPFAR program based on the high-risk behavior of the mining community. Mahdia can be reached by a six hour drive from the capital Georgetown on dirt roads. The Regional Health Officer (RHO) in Mahdia identified power as his number one challenge. Mahdia district hospital is thought to be representative of district hospitals in Region I, IX, and VII of Guyana which are connected to quasi-grids but provide intermittent and low quality power.

 

Current Power Situation and Challenges

Mahdia health workers have done an impressive job of piecing together an assortment of available electricity sources to allow them to provide necessary services. These various sources include:

  • Quasi-grid power from an Independent Power Producer (IPP) in the area. This power is only available from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., has very low voltage, and costs the hospital $75,000 GD/month.
  • Quasi-grid power provided free of charge from another IPP to provide continuous power to one of the hospital's three vaccine refrigerators.
  • An on-site 11 kW diesel generator which provides power from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Power supplied from this source is also reported to be low voltage. High fuel costs prevent the continuous operation of this generator.
  • Two solar systems for dedicated loads (radio and vaccine refrigerator).

The hospital has no power (with the exception of the vaccine refrigerators and radio) from 6-10 a.m. and from 2-6 p.m. It is estimated the hospital pays an average cost of more than $3.50 per kWh for this electricity, more than 10 times the price paid in Georgetown. Based on the poor quality of these power systems, the following problems were observed:

  • An extremely high failure rate on fluorescent lights and ballasts.
  • Damaged dental chair and equipment seriously limiting the provision of dental services.
  • Damaged blood lab equipment.
  • Lack of 24 hour electricity for any load other than the vaccine refrigerator and the emergency radio.
  • Lack of adequate power source for an x-ray building currently under construction.

 

Options for Improving Energy Supply:

Pursue a Better Power Situation with the Local IPPs

Currently, two IPPs own distribution systems and sell power in Mahdia. Both IPPs currently only offer power for a limited time during the evening hours.

The hospital should examine whether it is feasible to obtain continuous, high-quality and affordable power from one of the IPPs. This would involve renegotiation of the current power contract and physical infrastructure improvements including larger gauge wire from the point of generation to the hospital and possibly the addition of generation capacity. Although one IPP does produce continuous power for his own facilities (and the hospital vaccine refrigerator), it is not clear if he has sufficient generating capacity to provide continuous power to the hospital. If this option is pursued the addition of a low-cost power meter at the hospital would help to ensure transparent pricing.

If continuous power is not an option, the power from the quasi-grid could be used to charge a battery bank that could provide the facility with continuous and high-quality power as described below. The economic viability of this solution would depend primarily on the negotiated price of the power from the IPP. The cost of power from alternative generation sources, as detailed below, would serve as the benchmark for evaluating the economics of any IPP contract.

 

Self-Generation

Assuming the status quo in terms of the cost, quality, and intermittency of the IPP power supply at Mahdia, self-generation of all power at the hospital should be seriously considered. The modest size electrical load and high price of traditional power sources at Mahdia make renewable energy solutions feasible and economic.

An estimated hospital load of 16,000 watt-hours was calculated based on a review of the equipment in the hospital and interviews with the operators concerning frequency of use. This load does not include the current solar powered vaccine refrigerator, which would likely stay on its own dedicated power system, and it does not include any energy consumption for the X-ray building. If the X-ray building is completed, the best solution would likely be to buy power for its intermittent use from one of the IPPs. X-ray machines can be powered by battery based systems, but special equipment, including oversized batteries and high capacity inverters are required to cover the surge power required by the X-ray equipment.

A modeling program was utilized to compare the lifetime cost of electricity for the hospital using three possible generating configurations: 1) a solar system, 2) a diesel generator, and 3) a combined generator/solar hybrid system. The optimum solution to power these loads independently from the quasi-grid, calls for the installation of a 5,000 Watt peak solar array with appropriate batteries, and inverter in a hybrid situation with a small generator for battery charging during cloudy days.

The equipment costs of such a system (not project costs) are approximately $60,000. The resulting COE over a 20 year period, accounting in full for all initial capital costs and lifetime maintenance requirements, is just under $1.00 per kWh. The COE for a solar only system is similar, but would not be recommended for this facility given the zero tolerance for electricity shortage for critical loads. If the hospital chose to install and operate an efficient, high-quality diesel generator to provide continuous power for this load the COE would be between $2.40 and $4.60 per kWh based on current diesel prices in Mahdia. If diesel fuel increased to $1.80 per liter, these costs would increase to $3.45 - $6.80 per kWh. The following table shows the Initial Capital costs of different generation configurations and compares the lifetime cost of energy or Net Present Cost (NPC) with and without consideration of the initial capital costs.

 

Comparison of Costs for Different Power Generation Options at Mahdia District Hospital
SchemeInitial Capital ($)With Initial CapitalWithout Initial Capital
NPC $/kWhD=$0.86/LNPC $/kWhD=$1.80/LNPC $/kWhD=$0.86/LNPC $/kWhD=$1.80/L
16,000 Whrs per day
Solar Only 55,00 1.00 1.00 0.14 0.14
Solar/Diesel Hybrid (3 kW) 47,000 1.00 1.00 0.14 0.14
Generator Only (5kW) 7,000 2.40 3.45 2.25 3.35
Generator Only (10kW) 12,000 4.60 6.80 4.50 6.65

 

Clearly, $1.00 per kWh for 20 years of high-quality electricity is a bargain compared to the $3.58 per kWh the hospital currently pays for poor quality and intermittent power. The economic benefits of utilizing renewable energy can only be realized, however, if the system lifetime is maximized with appropriate maintenance protocols.

 

Provide a Separate Power Supply System for the Critical Loads

A final option at Mahdia is to provide a high-quality battery based power system for only the critical loads and allow all other loads to be powered from the IPP. This option would be feasible if negotiations with an IPP resulted in improved power quality at a reasonable price. The battery supply for the critical loads could either be charged with solar power or with power from the IPP. The economic viability of this solution would depend primarily on the negotiated price, reliability, and quality of the power from the IPP.