Bansang Hospital is the farthest hospital from the nation’s infrastructure base, serving the poorest of The Gambia’s population. It is at once the largest as well as the most strained of The Gambia’s tertiary care hospitals, serving a population catchment area of nearly 600,000 people. The original 160 bed Bansang Hospital was built by the British in 1938 when The Gambia was still part of the British Empire. Major renovations and expansions have been done since 1996, in part due to the support and efforts of the British charity group Bansang Hospital Appeal.
The Need: Diesel power generators in the town of Bansang supply electricity to the hospital, but only for limited periods of the day due to fuel cost and supply issues. With rising fuel prices, shrinking hospital budgets and difficult transportation, obtaining fuel for electrical generation is a constant worry. Without power, nurses have to tend to newborns and patients by candle light or by flashlight. A Solar Power and Battery Backup System can assure 24 hour electricity to the critical care areas of the hospital, eliminating the need for doctors, nurses and staff to work by candle light and ration care due to power outages.
Our Goal: to build a 64 kW hybrid solar power system with battery backup to meet the hospital’s growing power needs. With a generous donation of SunPower solar panels from Johnson & Johnson, we hope to raise the funds and build the new solar power system in January/February of 2019.
In a conversation with Anita Smith of Bansang Hospital Appeal, she explained why this project was so important:
“I can’t even begin to tell you what this means to me. I have stood over ailing children with both candles and torches over the years whilst nurses try to find veins, administer oxygen, emergency medication and the list goes on. Electricity will make of a world of difference. It will also raise staff morale. Bansang’s exceptional doctors and nurses, with a combination of care, expertise and compassion, continue to work under very difficult conditions. With PUG’s support and donor generosity 24/7 electricity will soon be a reality. Solar power will save lives.”
Bansang Hospital began its first with solar power project in 2008 when a British engineering firm, MITIE Group PLC, took on the challenge to design, plan and install a 2 kilowatt solar and battery system for the hospital’s Childrens Ward. Hospital staff noted that the 24 hour supply of electricity had a significant role in reducing the mortality rate on the ward, improving the ability of the staff to deliver high quality life saving patient care during the difficult night time shifts. After several years of reliable service however, lack of good battery maintenance resulted in damage to the original batteries.
In 2010, Power Up Gambia with the generous support of Stavros Niarchos Foundation and several long term supporters, provided newer, higher capacity deep cycle lead acid batteries from Victron Energy Blue Power Systems to return the solar power system to use. PUG also installed another 3 kilowatt solar power system to provide 24 hour lighting at the hospital. But once again, damage to the batteries resulted in the system not performing as designed. And, these small 2 and 3 kilowatt solar systems cannot fully address the busy hospital’s needs.
To test a better, more robust and maintenence free battery, Power Up Gambia and Bansang Hospital installed a new type of battery – an aqueous sodium battery from Aquion Energy. If tests show satisfactory performance of this type of battery, it or a similar type of newer technology battery will be used in the upcoming 64kW solar power project in 2019.