Power is a Prerequisite for Health

Issues & Solutions

Without power, critical health services can’t be provided – life-saving medicines go bad, electronic health records can’t be accessed, essential medical equipment can’t be powered, and vital community health facilities serving the most vulnerable shut down.

Powering Health

Power outages have become commonplace throughout the US, with more frequent and stronger storms, tornadoes, and other disasters.


The lack of reliable power has direct health consequences, especially for people living in low-income and vulnerable communities.


Outages also affect nonprofit health centers and clinics that serve these communities, making electronic records inaccessible and leaving temperature-sensitive medications unrefrigerated.

Active Projects

Luis Montalvo install a solar power system at Clínica Iella in San Juan, P.R., on July 5, 2018. Montalvo works with renewal power systems in the island and has seen more work after hurricane Maria struck in September of last year, and left the American territory in the dark. The clinic’s new solar system, funded by Direct Relief, will help them maintain their medication if there’s power interruption.  (Erika P. Rodriguez/Direct Relief) Hurricane Maria

Puerto Rico

Direct Relief is equipping Puerto Rico’s health centers, clinics and community facilities with solar and battery storage to better withstand future emergencies.

With wildfires in California increasing in frequency and scale, preemptive power shut-offs have begun to take place in order to prevent future blazes. However, lack of power can bring its own health risks, and many health centers across the state lack the necessary back-up power options to sustain health operations for an extended amount of time. (Photo by Donnie Hedden for Direct Relief) Wildfires

California

In response to fire-induced power outages, Direct Relief deploys power units and generators and is working with health centers and clinics across California on several large-scale solar and battery installations.

Direct Relief's new headquarters features a Tesla micro-grid system with 999 solar panels that allows the organization to remain online through power outages. (Photo by Tony Morain/Direct Relief) Microgrid

Direct Relief HQ

To ensure Direct Relief never loses power, Direct Relief engaged Tesla to build a microgrid that keeps the organization running and its cold-chain medicine protected even if it loses grid power.

The Issue

The lack of reliable power has direct health consequences on individuals and families, especially for people living in low income and vulnerable communities who are struggling every day.

Damage from a 6.4-magnitude earthquake is seen in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, on January 8, 2020. For many Puerto Ricans, the earthquakes that began in late December of last year have caused repeated interruptions to power, which is dangerous for children relying on an electronic medical device. (Direct Relief photo)
Damage from a 6.4-magnitude earthquake is seen in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, on January 8, 2020. For many Puerto Ricans, the earthquakes caused repeated interruptions to power. (Direct Relief photo)

In California, millions of people and hundreds of critical health facilities have gone without power in the first year of the statewide preventative utility-shut offs – a problematic response to wildfires ravaging the state and projected to last at least a decade.

These outages not only shut down health services and have dire effects on health, but they also directly lead to the loss of financial resources, resulting from spoiled medication and lost patient revenues. Other devastating outages are now commonplace throughout the US, following the ever increasing of number of severe storms, tornadoes, and other disasters.

In Puerto Rico, following Hurricanes Maria and Irma, thousands of people were without power for months on end.

Many of the sick and elderly, who relied on electric-powered medical equipment and refrigerated medicines to survive, died in the storm’s aftermath. Other communities who depend on electricity for well-water pumps went without water for months. The recent earthquakes and resulting power outages in Puerto Rico underscore the continuing dangers for people on the island.

A solar-powered water pump in Puerto Rico's Las Piedras community. (Photo by Dori Lozada for Direct Relief)
A solar-powered water pump in Puerto Rico’s Las Piedras community. (Photo by Dori Lozada for Direct Relief)

These outages show a growing national problem that requires a resilient solution to protect vulnerable populations ― especially those requiring uninterrupted access to life-saving medical equipment and refrigerated medicines during power outages.

The Solution

Fortunately, there is an alternative to the unreliable power grid. New, clean, cost effective, and reliable forms of power generation and storage can be used to ensure health centers, water plants, and other critical facilities serving the most vulnerable can stay powered to do their jobs.

In California, Puerto Rico, and across the United States, Federally Qualified Community Health Centers exist in medically underserved areas in order to provide quality healthcare services to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. These sites not only serve as community hubs and healthcare providers on a daily basis, but they become first responder sites after a disaster, and therefore must always remain powered. And unlike hospitals, health centers are not required to have three days of backup power or generation capacity.

Completed battery and inverters for a solar power system that energizes one of the water pumps that provides water for the Bauta Abajo community in Orocovis, Puerto Rico. (Photo by Erika P. Rodríguez for Direct Relief)
Completed battery and inverters for a solar power system that energizes one of the water pumps that provides water for the Bauta Abajo community in Orocovis, Puerto Rico. (Photo by Erika P. Rodríguez for Direct Relief)

Following Hurricane Maria, Direct Relief deployed millions of dollars in grants and contributed equipment to complete the installation of solar generation plus backup battery storage in these community health centers in Puerto Rico, so far providing over two megawatts of solar power and storage.

These systems are now not only providing a reliable power supply so they can stay open when the grid goes down, but also offsetting 1,200 tons of CO2 emissions per year and saving the health centers thousands of dollars every month that can be put back into critical health services.

POWER PROGRAMS

United States

California

Direct Relief's delivers a generator and battery to the Free Clinic of Simi Valley. The unit provided the clinic with emergency backup power during the Saddleridge Fire in Oct., 2019.
Direct Relief’s delivers a generator and battery to the Free Clinic of Simi Valley. The unit provided the clinic with emergency backup power during the Saddleridge Fire in Oct., 2019.

Puerto Rico

Solar panels on the roof of Migrant Health Center in Las Marias, P.R., on September 11, 2018. The solar power system was funded by Direct Relief. (Erika P. Rodriguez for Direct Relief)
Solar panels on the roof of Migrant Health Center in Las Marias, P.R., on September 11, 2018. The solar power system was funded by Direct Relief. (Erika P. Rodriguez for Direct Relief)

Hawaii

  • Solar powered vaccine refrigerator to MCH partner

Multi-state

  • Preparing a “fleet” of solar powered trailers, stocked with backup power, refrigeration units, pop up solar tents, to provide power and health care after power loss (upcoming).

Caribbean

Bahamas

  • 2 Solar and battery backup projects on 2 health centers
  • Solar and battery powered reverse osmosis water purification containerized system to provide clean drinking water to east end of Grand Bahama
A solar nanogrid is unveiled in Grand Fond, Dominica, on Oct. 4, 2019. The nanogrid provides emergency power, water purification and refrigerated storage for medicines like vaccines. (Photo by Chad Ambo for Direct Relief)
A solar nanogrid is unveiled in Grand Fond, Dominica, on Oct. 4, 2019. The nanogrid provides emergency power, water purification and refrigerated storage for medicines like vaccines. (Photo by Chad Ambo for Direct Relief)

Dominica

International

Midwife kits were delivered to Lumbadzi Health Center in Malawi in November, 2018. Midwives perform an average of 150 safe deliveries per month at the rural health outpost, located on the outskirts of Lilongwe, the country’s capital city. The kits contain everything a midwife needs to deliver babies safely in almost any environment. Items include surgical instruments, I.V. sets, headlamps, and more. In collaboration with the Malawian Association of Midwives, Direct Relief will continue to provide the kits to health centers across Malawi. (Paulina Ospina/Direct Relief)
Midwife kits were delivered to Lumbadzi Health Center in Malawi. The kits contain everything a midwife needs to deliver babies safely in almost any environment. Items include surgical instruments, I.V. sets, headlamps, and more. (Paulina Ospina/Direct Relief)
  • Provided over 1,000 portable and solar powered chargers for phones and computers and solar powered lights
  • Provided Solar Suitcases to midwives around the world to enable clean and safe delivery with lights and power for dopplers and ultrasounds

 

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