Solar Project

June 15th 2020 – Status Summary

As a result of Covid-19, the timetable has been further delayed. The inverters from Taiwan were fortunately delivered by air freight and a large part of the batteries have already arrived in Malawi. However, the panels are still in South Africa. They cannot be delivered due to all border closures.

In Phalombe, the clearing and tree felling operations were successfully completed. The construction of the building for the batteries and inverters was completed. It is well ventilated and an air conditioning system will keep the temperatures constant.

The available inverters and batteries will be installed in June and connected to the hospital. The system has been designed as a hybrid system - it works with both DC-fed solar PV and AC-fed alternating current. The inverters can charge the batteries with power from ESCOM and in case of a power failure the hospital will be supplied by the batteries.

The next steps include the construction of a security fence around the solar system, the substructure work for the panel supports and the installation of the eagerly awaited solar panels from South Africa.

March 14th 2020 – Status Summary

As announced at the association meeting in June 2019, we have started the solar project with excitement. We have taken into account that the rainy season would hinder us in this large-scale project. But now the big rain has slowed down the schedule a bit. The construction work on the ground, especially the levelling and the foundation for the solar panels, could not be done last year due to the wetness.

The project timing now envisages that the ground work can begin in March and that the installation of the solar system will then be pushed ahead rapidly until June.

Project status – actual situation

With today's unreliable energy supply, the basic services at Phalombe Hospital cannot be provided. Power outages are becoming increasingly regular and last several hours a day. ESCOM′s national power grid cannot provide reliable hydroelectric power. Climate change and increasingly low water levels exacerbate the situation. Backup by the hospital's own diesel generator is expensive and unreliable. Important life-supporting machines cannot function and therefore cost lives.

In 2019 the local hospital management and the Pro Phalombe association declare the realisation of the solar project the next priority of a future-oriented infrastructure optimisation.

Advantages of photovoltaic (PV)-technology

  • Photovoltaic technology is cost-effective and reliable.
  • The solar system is intended to replace the ESCOM grid, thus reducing the daily load.
  • The solar system saves about US$ 55'000 annually, which was previously spent on electricity and generator costs.
  • The first operational priority is solar power and ESCOM, solar power and battery the second, only battery the third (at night). Generators are only used at night as last resort.
  • Used as a way out when the batteries are empty and power from ESCOM is not available.
  • The batteries allow a mains-independent operation without ESCOM, generators or sunlight for 8 to 15 hours.
  • The system design allows flexible expansion and integration of more battery storage. This increases the availability of energy and reduces generator operation.
  • The SCADA system (supervisory control and data acquisition) enables remote monitoring for reliable operation.
  • Energy-saving LED lighting is installed and old devices with poor efficiency are upgraded to reduce the total load.
  • Lifetime of the system: 20 years photovoltaic system and 10 years batteries

Technical details

  • PV capacity (DC) 60 kWp
  • Inverter output (AC) 50 kW
  • Battery capacity (usable) 105 kWh
  • Battery backup time 13 kW for 8 hours
  • Depth of discharge 100%
  • Guarantee period 3600 Full Cycles
  • Expected life cycle 10+ years