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DRE project developer: Trama TecnoAmbiental (TTA)
Funding partner: USAID
Beneficiaries: Eight remote communities in the Northern Region (Districts: Mion (2), Mamprusi West, Sawla Tuna Kalba, Bole, Gonja North (2), Central Gonja) and seven remote communities in Volta Region (Districts: Krachi East (2), Krachi West (2), Nkwanta South (2), Biakoye)
Trama TecnoAmbiental (TTA) is an international consulting and engineering SME active since 1986 and based in Barcelona, Spain. Its main specialty is distributed renewable energy generation combined with energy management and efficiency in developing regions. In rural electrification, and particularly microgrids, TTA has been involved in studies, policy, deployment and capacity building in over 60 countries.
TTA’s team has international and cross-cultural experience at technological as well as institutional levels, including regulatory, financial and social aspects. Projects have been done in Europe, Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Oceania and Asia. Clients include governments, multilateral and bilateral institutions (WB UNDP, UNOPS, UNIDO, UNESCO, IDB, OLADE, IRENA, IEA, EC, AECID, and others), NGOs, local communities, individuals, private developers, contractors, electric utilities etc.
TTA was awarded the EUREC Technology Prize 2001, “for developing excellent system technology for rural electrification based on renewable energy sources, combined with an innovative, user-oriented approach for its implementation”.
In 2015, TTA was awarded with the Prize “Off-Grid Experts Awards” by the company Off-Grid Phaesun together with ARE, for excellence in the performance in the field of Off-Grid power supply, in the Category A “Product” for its “Electricity Dispenser”, a Smart Meter for microgrids.
As part of a broad programme funded by USAID, Community-based Health Planning and Services (CHPS), compounds were newly constructed in the Northern and Volta Regions of Ghana to provide essential health care to the local communities, which otherwise had to travel to the main cities to get treatment. A CHPS compound is a standard designed set of buildings where health care officers live and provide relevant primary health services to the community. This project supplied the CHPS compounds with electricity through stand-alone solar PV solutions (solar kits).
One stand-alone solar PV solution was installed at each CHPS. Each kit consisted of 3.5 kWp PV with storage, providing a minimum of two days of autonomy. All CHPS compounds were electrified with the same solar kit in order to minimise the diversity of components and facilitate the operations. The strategy was to supply clean energy to priority loads (clinics) and non-priority loads (houses) using demand-side management techniques. This was done by installing energy dispensers in the clinics and houses. The dispensers, developed by TTA, control both the energy and power consumption, but also give incentives for the efficient use of energy through real time pricing. As a result, the electricity is now consumed efficiently and the lifetime of batteries has been increased. Social innovation includes local capacity building and user empowerment.
The cost of the turnkey project was around EUR 330,000, including activities such as capacity building. All funding consisted of a grant fully provided by USAID and managed by the University Research Co. LLC (URC). The system is owned by the Ghana Health Service. The proposed technical solution enhances the long-term durability of the project with an adequate management of the demand and energy made available to users, thus ensuring a long lifetime of the equipment. Ghana Health Service covers the energy expenses of both the clinics and the residential compounds. Training of the local workforce was a key aspect to the sustainability of the service over the long term: besides an initial training course, a refresher training cycle was performed months after the commissioning. Additionally, a WhatsApp platform was created to report faults and share user experiences.
In total, the 15 clinics serve more than 200 communities and 85,000 people. A typical day in the dry season allows for the operation of laptops, internet modems, fans and refrigerators. The equipment can run for up to 10 hours during the day. The refrigerators run uninterruptedly, since they store essential vaccines and medicines. Infrequently used equipment include laser multifunction printers, a 2 kW autoclave, water pumps, a nebuliser machine and a washing machine. The horizontal installation and stacking of batteries allowed for a minimum footprint and compact installation - together, the 15 solar stand-alone solutions were estimated to avoid up to 52.5 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Training the staff was key, not only during installation, but also the refresher cycle of trainings, to solve doubts that arose after commissioning. Furthermore, excellent collaboration with the local partner was key to carry out the works successfully. Due to previous experiences with other similar solar projects in Ghana, such as rural minigrids, there were no delays nor issues related to customs clearance, logistics and the timely delivery of works, where all operations were carried on smoothly and without obstacles. If the rest of the CHPS were to get electricity, the same solar kit shall be used in order to avoid engineering and minimise delivery times. Sourcing components locally would help deliver the kits even sooner. On average, it is estimated that the full commissioning timeframe for a single solution since its inception would be around four to five months. If the components can be procured locally, then the estimated time could be reduced to one month, also depending on local logistics and capacities.
The 15 solar kits were a pilot project with the aim to replicate a total of 55 clinics in the Northern and Volta Region, once additional funding is provided. Moreover, the Ministry of Energy and UN Foundation are also working towards the electrification of rural communities and health centres and are identifying more compounds to be electrified with this modular kit.