09 Jan 2012 - Faced with rising energy prices and frequent electricity blackouts, hospitals and medical clinics in Kenya are turning to solar energy to provide life-saving power.
The number of medical facilities using solar energy has been growing steadily, reaching about 300 in 2010, according to the Kenya Bureau of Statistics.
The region’s changing climate has contributed to increasingly severe droughts, causing water levels in hydro-electric dams to drop sharply. As a result, electricity costs have risen by more than 35 percent in the past year.
Some medical institutions, concerned the electric grid is becoming increasingly unreliable and costly, are using solar installations to provide backup or as the principal power source for some machines.
River Road Clinic, a private facility in Nairobi, has installed solar powered lighting and also uses a rechargeable battery to store solar power as a backup for mains electricity.
“If the electricity goes off right now, the machines may be affected. If a patient is on life support, [the machines] just go off, hence the need for solar as a backup,” said Phillip Mutava, a lab technician at the clinic.
“The most important thing for any hospital or clinic is the welfare of the patient. We have to offer them the best service available ... Even when there is a blackout, we can always have power,” he added.
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