In its effort to help curb the challenges faced by many health and educational institutions in northern Nigeria due to intermittent energy supply from the grid, Solar Nigeria Programme is supplying and installing new energy equipment in many hospitals and schools in the region.
The project, which is reportedly funded by the European Union (EU), is helping the schools and hospitals in the region to embrace a brighter future, as patients affected by COVID-19 now stand a chance of receiving the treatment they need.
In his remark, the Programme Lead of Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), Emmanuel Taiwo, said the project is built on an earlier phase funded by UKAid through the United Kingdom Government’s FCDO
Taiwo said: “This EU-funded phase of the Solar Nigeria Programme is harnessing energy from the sun to power medical and educational facilities in northern Nigeria. Specifically, the project is designed to bring reliable and renewable energy supplies to 35 public facilities in four states, including Borno, Kano, Kaduna and Adamawa, and encompassing general and regional hospitals, schools and colleges. Most of the facilities are already up and running or are close to completion.”
He added that the glut of sunshine in northern Nigeria’s dry, tropical climate makes solar energy highly viable to powering communal facilities, stating that in some places, the weather is sunny more than 70 per cent of the time.
According to a former Medical Director of one of the beneficiary facilities, Odede Chukwuemeka Emmanuel, “The Solar Nigeria project has brought a lot of gains to the hospital. The lab is connected to power, vaccines are stored properly and we no longer rely on torchlights and candles to function.
“Many of the processes, including data storage, are now digitised. And the hospital receives more patients as a result of the drastic improvement in service delivery.”
The Solar Nigeria programme is aimed at harnessing solar energy to provide a reliable and clean power source to schools and health facilities.
Analysing how the system works, the organisation noted in a statement that photovoltaic systems are being combined with batteries that enable power to be provided throughout the night and day.
“For small-to-medium facilities, the solar technology is delivered as a modular containerised system, with panels fitted to the container powering the site directly through the day and any excess energy used to charge lithium-ion batteries within the container,” it said.
The company stated that in Borno State capital, Maiduguri, students at the College of Nursing and Midwifery are realising multiple benefits from their new solar system. Before the technology was introduced, all the college’s internally generated revenue was spent on maintaining generators and buying diesel. “Students were often trained in darkness, and practical lessons were very limited because of the lack of power. Sometimes, examinations could not be completed because of power outages,” Solar Nigeria said.
“The Solar Nigeria project has completely turned our lives around,” the College Provost, Rukaya Shettima Mustapha, said, adding: “Prior to solar, the college had provisional accreditation due to the absence of a constant power supply. Now it is powered by the solar project, and the possibility to gain full accreditation is very high. With provisional accreditation, we could only train 50 students a year but with full accreditation, we would be able to train 150 annually.”
Solar Nigeria is stimulating the power industry by bringing indirect benefits to northern Nigeria, too.
In Kaduna State, its effort to equip 13 healthcare facilities with solar is complementing wider efforts by the state government to encourage distributed and decentralized sources of power. Kaduna’s vision for the long term is to be energy self-sufficient; its government’s initiatives include ensuring there is at least one solar-powered primary healthcare facility in each of the state’s 255 wards; establishing a solar assembly plant and installing solar-powered street lights. These efforts are being channelled through Kaduna Power Supply Company (KPSC).
On his own, the Managing Director of KPSC, Mrs. Dolapo Popoola, commended Solar Nigeria, the EU and FCDO for helping to stimulate the state solar energy industry.
By training site engineers in operation and maintenance, she said the programme is helping to equip the state with individuals who are knowledgeable about modern solar technology. “The Solar Nigeria Programme has helped guide and develop the state’s own projects by bringing the state up to speed on the most updated solar technologies,” she said, adding that: “It has helped set standards and served as guidelines for other solar projects under development.”
This current phase of the Solar Nigeria programme, according to the organisation, will be completed by the end of 2020. Once fully operational, the photovoltaic installations in public facilities are expected to improve the welfare of over 5,000 school and college pupils and 10,000 hospital and clinic patients. Crucially, at the present time, the equipment is supporting Nigeria’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, where the reported number of cases continues to grow.