HHS Solar Energy Project Enhances CDC Health Care Facility

April 1, 2002

The CARE-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Health Initiative facility in Homa Bay, Kenya, will soon benefit from a solar energy power system that will provide more reliable power and reduce losses of vital medicine and laboratory test samples. The facility houses an on-site laboratory that supports a project to reduce diarrheal diseases using a simple household-based method to improve water quality.

The laboratory has experienced frequent power outages that required excessive use of an emergency diesel-powered generator. No routine maintenance is performed on the generator, due to the location of the laboratory and lack of maintenance staff. Therefore, when repairs are necessary, funding that could be used for the mission of the clinic is used for extensive repair and replacement of the generator. On average, the generator is replaced every 5�years. This is in addition to the expense of the high-cost diesel fuel to power the generator.

To reduce the site's power disruptions, CDC Medical Officer Rob Quick teamed up with the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Energy Officer Scott Waldman and HHS' Energy Services Contractor Diana Hirshfeld to initiate a project to install a photovoltaic module for the laboratory. Working with CDC's Rita Oberle, Director of the Office of Facilities Planning and Management, HHS submitted the CARE-CDC solar project for funding in response to FEMP's FY 2001 call for distributed energy resources (DER) projects. Oberle provided her office's assistance with the design and procurement aspects of the project. "The endeavor to install a solar energy system at the Homa Bay laboratory was a culmination of the dedication of CDC personnel in many different offices, HHS Energy Program management, and DOE," said Quick.

In April 2001, the CARE-CDC Homa Bay solar energy project was selected as a recipient of FEMP's DER equipment funding. FEMP's technical assistance included project design recommendations, and CDC assisted with the shipment of hardware and funded the installation. "We overcame a number of obstacles especially in identifying and securing project funding. But all parties involved were eager to transform the idea into reality, support the Homa Bay facility, and promote renewable energy systems," stated Waldman.

Harry Marsh, Program Manager for the CDC National Center for Infectious Diseases, Facilities Planning and Project Management Office, is managing the project's logistics including procuring, shipping, and installing the system overseas. Working with his colleagues, Marsh is addressing the many challenges inherent in a project of this type. For example, originally, the plan was for the hardware for the 2-kilowatt solar system to be flown to Kenya. However, once it was learned that the storage batteries for the system weighed approximately 3,000�lbs., it became apparent that the hardware would need to be shipped to Africa on a freighter. Marsh has obtained the assistance of the State Department for the ground shipment of the equipment to its final destination once the hardware arrives by ship. In addition, he is working with CARE-CDC to plan the installation of the solar panels in a useful carport-type structure to shade transportation vehicles. The solar system is expected to be installed by July 2002.

"The HHS Energy Program advocates the use of renewable energy systems and searches for projects throughout the Department to champion. The CARE-CDC Homa Bay installation offers a chance to make a significant difference in the energy consumption and environmental impact of an HHS-affiliated facility," said Waldman. Not only will the program work to replicate this type of project in the agency's facilities, but will use it to educate HHS facility managers and employees, and visitors of the clinic. "Most importantly, the CARE-CDC Homa Bay laboratory will now have a more reliable energy source that will allow the CARE-CDC staff to address the real needs and goals of the facility, improving the health of the Kenyans," added Marsh.

For more information, please contact Harry Marsh of CDC at 404-639-0292 or ham@cdc.gov, or Diana Hirshfeld of HHS at 703-620-4330 or dhirshfeld@aol.com.