Solar thermal energy improves hygiene in healthcare centres
In Benin, not all health facilities are equipped with connections to the electricity grid and access to the hot-water supply. Even if the corresponding boilers are available, their operation with wood or electricity from the sometimes unreliable power grid is cost-intensive. However, especially for the postnatal care of mothers and newborn children, washing with warm water is essential for hygiene and the prevention of infections.
Due to the high costs and low supply stability, the hot-water boilers in two non-governmental health facilities are now to be operated with the help of solar thermal energy. This will ensure that hot water will be permanently available for the maternity wards of the two facilities. In addition, four technicians will use the example of the two boilers to learn how to assemble them using local materials and simple, sustainable construction methods. This knowledge will enable them to increase their opportunities on the labour market. In this way, a sustainable, resource-saving and replicable alternative to common hot-water systems is to be created.
The Laboratoire d’Energétique et de Mécanique Appliquée (LEMA) is a research institute affiliated to the Université d’Abomey-Calavi in Benin and conducts research on energy issues. The students and scientists at LEMA conduct research on solar energy, solar drying, water supply and heating, and the use of local materials for the construction of renewable energy systems.
First, two health centres are selected through a needs assessment. For the training of the technicians, construction plans for the construction of the water boilers as well as the associated storage units are subsequently prepared. The construction phase of the two heating units is simultaneously used for the practical training of the fitters. A special feature of LEMA’s research and thus also of the implementation of this project is that, in addition to the possible applications of solar thermal systems, they are also concerned with the local and sustainable production of these. In this way, the devices should be easy to replicate in the future and be further disseminated in the region through the trained technicians. After the installation of the system, some of the staff in the health centres will be trained in the use and maintenance of the systems. To ensure the latter in the long term, the health centres regularly set aside some of the money saved for wood or electricity.