- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Enrolled and paid deposit for over 25 CA health centers and clinics into the CA PUC’s self-generation incentive program (SGIP) for large-scale battery installations.
- 3.3MwH of installed battery worth $3.3M in value
- Funded Mendocino Community Health Center’s 265kw PV installation with a grant of $740k. Clinic also received a 464kwh battery worth $465k with the SGIP program
- Assembled fleet of backup power solutions (towable generators and Simpliphi Express and BoxPower) to rapidly deploy to centers when they lose power
- Home-based power solutions in advance of PSPS events individuals with power-dependent medical needs.
- 15 health clinics with solar and battery completed/in process saving $443k/yr
- 1.2MW of PV and 2.6MwH of battery
- 29 community water pumps with backup solar/battery/generator saving $136k/yr
- 346kw PV and 580kw battery
- 1 fire station with full backup power with solar and battery
- 3 solar laundries with solar and battery saving $6k/yr
- 32 small generators to ensure reliable power in the homes of children with power dependent medical needs.
- Solar powered vaccine refrigerator to MCH partner
- 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).
- 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
- 2 containerized “nanogrids” to Dominica. The nanogrids can produce their own power, water filtration for clean drinking water, medical refrigerators, and additional power to the health clinic. This program won an environmental award.
- Solar powered refrigerators to hurricane prone islands in the Caribbean (upcoming).
- 8 to Dominica
- 25 to OECS and member countries, which include Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, BVI, Grenada, Monserrat, St Kitts, St Lucia, St Vincent (upcoming).
- 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