Solar for Papua New Guinea Highland Hospital
Over the years I’ve worked with William Wright, PE of PowerQuest WorldWide, Ltd a man who brings energy and vital equipment to hospitals in the developing world. This year I was invited to help install a solar and battery backup system – in Papua New Guinea (PNG). It was an amazing experience. I am sharing it here because I can’t help myself (it was such an stunning adventure) and in the hopes of inspiring us all to look outside the box we see as our territory at how renewable energy can help others whether it is a neighbour across the street or around the world. And at the same time build a thriving business for ourselves.
A Little History
Australia has a long history and connection with PNG. (For those who may not know I am an Aussie.) During World War II the Japanese made their naval head quarters in PNG where a small number of Aussie troops were stationed. There were months of ferocious battles in the malaria ridden jungle and in the end the meagre Australian and US troops prevented the Japanese from their planned invasion of Australia. Many of those ill or wounded soldiers were saved by the locals who walked our bedraggled mob over the Kakoda Track to Port Moresby where they could then be transferred the short distance home.
So, getting to visit PNG and make a difference for the people who were so kind and generous to my fellow Australians was a wonderful opportunity. By the way, although profoundly under developed Papua New Guinea is a stunning tropical paradise near the equator – all of which doesn’t hurt.
We flew from Brisbane, Australia to Port Morsby, PNG and transferred planes to Mt Hagen. The next morning after visiting Hagen’s large open air market for supplies we drove the 5 hours over insanely rutted road to Kompiam where the hospital is situated.
Following are a few impressions from our trip to Kompiam. The infrastructure is failing miserably. There are small open air markets by the road side every few kilometres, often with people hanging out or sitting in the dirt nearby. Most of the people are warm, friendly and helpful. Many smiled and waved as we passed. ‘Don’t litter’ is not a concept. There are very few cars and walking is the major mode of transportation. In fact, there is no road from Mt Hagen (Agricultural Hub of PNG) to Port Moresby (National Capital). There is very little industry. The Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) is one of the highest in the world. Wound care and basic hygiene are virtually non existent outside hospitals or medical stations which are very few and far between.
We arrived in the late evening at Kompiam in the pouring rain. The hospital is situated in a compound as are may buildings we passed on our drive up the mountain. The Highlands are still rife with clan violence and keeping staff and patients safe is a priority of the hospital. The gate keeper let us in the compound.
Kompiam Hospital is in the highlands at about 6,000 feet. So although the area is lush and tropical, laced with rivers and waterfalls it isn’t wildly hot and there are not a lot of biting insects. It sits within a complex surrounded by a security fence. The complex includes the hospital, school and housing for its 50+ staff and workers. The hospital consists of a small operating theatre, large building with three wards and staff offices, a small building (ward) for HIV and TB patients. There is also a building under construction which will be a separate maternity ward. The Kompiam Hospital provides the only health care in this vast district. Although the doctor walks into the bush to set up small local clinics and treat those in need several times a year, most people have to walk the many many kilometres to the hospital for treatment. David, the Aussie doctor, his family and all the medical staff both local and visiting are extraordinary, gifted, caring people. They have created a centre for health and respect in one of the most uder developed places on earth. They all have my profound respect and admiration.
The Off Grid System
We were given Sunday off to recuperate and Monday morning we started on the installation of an SMA Sunny Island off grid System. Over the week we installed three Sunny Island Inverters, one Sunny Tri-power 10 kW with 10.3 kW of PV panels, 1200 Amphours of AGM batteries for a 3 phase 240 / 415 volt 50 Hz power system with generator back up. We also designed it to allow for easy expansion to a multi-cluster system. On day 9 of my stay we turned it on and the magic happened. There was power available 24/7 so the lights would not go out in the middle of an operation again. Of course there are so many other perks to having sustainable power but that one seems most profound.
The Bottom Line: Looking out for projects that could benefit from renewable energy and specifically battery backup and or off grid systems has served us well and added quality to our lives. You might want to consider checking further afield to see what projects might make your day and improve life for others. Our visit to PNG certainly made a huge impact on my life and I know greatly helped the people of Kompiam.