SustainSolar and Equatorial Power Bring Life-Saving Solar Power to Off-Grid Health Clinics in Uganda

In remote communities of Uganda’s Lake Victoria region, innovative solutions are required to help those in need. Recognising this reality, SustainSolar and Equatorial Power have successfully electrified five off-grid health clinics, thanks in part to a generous healthcare electrification grant from USAID/Power Africa.  

The partnership rapidly delivered five turn-key SUSTAIN BOXTM + PV systems – from Cape Town to rural Uganda – with manufacturing, shipping, and onsite commissioning completed within 3 months. Each power system
(8kW inverter/14.8kWh LFP/5.46kWp PV) is built to supply the clinics with considerable energy access – supporting not only basic lighting, but also medical appliances and water purifiers provided by the project grant. This supplies the clinics with clean water for their operations and enables the facilities to supply enhanced medical services to the communities they serve. 

This project was the first field demonstration of SustainSolar’s pre-integrated turn-key cabinet solution, SUSTAIN BOXTM, for rural electrification projects. The venture successfully demonstrated the rapid delivery and installation benefits of this product, quality performance as well as reliability. The partnership between SustainSolar and Equatorial Power has proven the mobility and turn-key readiness of these systems for last-mile locations in remote communities, offering compelling evidence of replicability for future projects in Uganda and beyond. Additionally, SustainSolar provided “asset financing” for the power systems to offer the facilities with customised payment terms. Demonstration of this finance mechanism and the lessons learned will allow SustainSolar to offer this tool for future projects of similar nature. 

As the in-country implementation partner, Equitorial Power proved the soundness of their logistical and installation capabilities, as well as vital on-the-ground knowledge and local community/government/commercial relationships that enabled achievement of the project activities. Combined, the capabilities of Equatorial Power and SustainSolar created a strong partnership team which we aim to replicate for future endeavours.

Installed in March 2022, the health and community impacts of this project have been encouraging thus far. Our data collection indicates that over the grant period (October 2021 – September 2022) clinics have collectively served more than 32,500 patients – 409% more than originally expected and have recorded a marked monthly increase in patients since installation of the power systems. Anecdotal feedback from clinic staff suggests this is due to increased community confidence in the health services available. 

For example, in Bugana, since the SUSTAIN BOXTM installation, the facility has increased operating hours to 24/7 (previously sunrise to 16h00), attracting a much larger catchment area of population served. Also, in-facility births went from 15-20 a month to currently 65-85 a month. According to midwives in the communities, this is due to mothers now seeking services at night (when many women go into labour) instead of giving birth at home. Growing trust in services and performance have also attracted more patients seeking preventative care, including expectant mothers now beginning check-ups at the first trimester through birth. 

After the electrification and thanks to the support of civil society organizations and local authorities, the Bugana health clinic was able to purchase a desktop computer for digital record keeping and a TV. While the computer enables the facility to efficiently transfer all their records to the Ministry of Health in real time, the presence of the TV in the waiting room has also increased patient turnout. The TV at the facility is the only one in the entire community, enabling connectivity to the outside world. 

Beyond installation, SustainSolar and Equatorial Power will maintain the long-term sustainability of these power systems through: 

  1. Training of health clinics’ local O&M (Operations & Maintenance) personnel to maintain and perform basic troubleshooting of the power systems, 
  1. Remote monitoring of all deployed assets through state-of-the-art IoT systems, 
  1. Ensuring long-term O&M funding for replacement spares through additional for-fee services at the clinics – run by a local entrepreneur (trained and advised by Equatorial Power) – namely, sales of purified water and device charging. 

Beyond this project, SustainSolar and Equatorial Power are exploring further opportunities to expand our model – supporting development activities to increase rural communities’ access to critical health services in Uganda and across the continent. 

Founded in 2018, SustainSolar offers turnkey containerized, pre-installed solar PV and battery energy storage systems (BESS) equipped with top-quality solar PV electronics, including lithium-ion batteries which come in standardized yet adjustable product configurations from small to large to suit a wide range of energy needs. With its commitment to quality, a rapidly growing track record on the African continent, and an expanding network of local partners, SustainSolar is a preferred solution provider for mini-grid operators, off-grid and hybrid fuel saving applications. SustainSolar strives to reduce implementation risk for project developers, alleviates operational hassles such as sourcing, logistics, and commissioning and offers asset financing for its product range.