The Mwandi Hospital, a designated COVID center in Western Province Zambia, requires reliable, low-cost electrical power in order to provide quality patient care. Costs charged by the national hydroelectric power company (ZESCO) are increasing exponentially. Our project's long-term goal is to remove the hospital from the ZESCO power grid by installing a sustainable solar power system. The hospital will apply its cost-savings directly to patient care and its health-care services will be expanded.
In 2020, ZESCO increased its tariffs by 100%. The hospital's monthly electric bills doubled and reached 60 - 70 percent of its total available monthly funding. Because other costs of patient care cannot be decreased, the hospital often fails to pay the ZESCO bills. Phase 1 of our solar project, completed in 2018, has helped to reduce some of dependency on ZESCO power. Unfortunately, the increases in ZESCO charges in 2020 have greatly exceeded the savings obtained from Phase 1 solar production.
We hope to complete Phase 2 of our solar project in 2021. In Phase 2, we will install a more advanced and efficient containerized system. The current generating capacity of Phase 1 is 8kW. After completion of Phase 2, the capacity will be increased to 28kW (or 3.5 times more power production). Phase 2 will increase solar power storage and will connect the maternity ward and some other hospital spaces to solar power. The net effect will be a larger reduction in daytime dependency on ZESCO power.
The hospital's goal, supported by the Ministry of Health, is to become a Level 2 healthcare facility. Achieving Level 2 status depends on the hospital's ability to control its operating budget and expand services. A new master plan increases patient wards and adds radiology and oncology facilities, a reproductive health center, and a stand-alone isolation facility. Phase 2 of the solar project is a necessary step toward a sustainable energy solution and a reduction of hospital operating costs.