The following was contributed by Alex Chong, a Technical Sales Consultant at Apollo Energy; Energy Matters’ sister company.
In September 2013, I travelled to Papua New Guinea with Wayne Merry from HOPE Worldwide to install small solar panel systems on the rooftops of a rural clinic in the Cimbu province and 9 Mile Urban Clinic in Port Moresby.
It turned out to be quite an adventure – apart from the remoteness of the province accessible only by plane and four-wheel drive; we were met by various road blocks set up by protesters and some opportunist bandits.
We had to request a convoy from the local police on our way there and they in turn charged us a sum for their service. To avoid the premium fee on the way back; we tailed a local convoy with truckloads of people needing to get to the town to stock up on food.
At one point, we were also met by some opportunist bandits armed with machetes and after a little drama of threat and negotiations; they let us go once we paid a “minimum fee”.
We considered ourselves lucky as we found out the next day that a few porters were killed by some bandits at the Black Cat Trail; an incident that was news in Australia.
Despite the incidents that shortened our stay in the province from 3 days to 1; the first solar install at Cimbu went really well, thanks to excellent team work from the local community. They were very intrigued by what was to them new technology.
This stand-alone solar system will help support the HIV health programmes run by the rural clinic. A weekly charging schedule was established to charge the batteries of the mini projector system for screening the HIV awareness video to the local community.
The locals will now also be able to charge their mobile phones twice a week; saving them a couple miles walk to the nearest Digicell (their local Testra equivalent) provider and paying for a service that we all take for granted.
Back in the capital Port Moresby, the second solar system was installed at the 9 Mile Urban Clinic; which serves thousands in the impoverished 9 Mile residential area.
The system provides backup power from a battery to a medicines fridge that suffered from frequent grid outage. Now the staff nurses no longer need to move the entire fridge to another location to keep the medicine fresh.
I’d like to thank Energy Matters and Apollo Energy for the generous donation of the solar components and time off for my trip. Special thanks to :
– David Jones for sponsoring the wonderful mini projector system and inverter for Cimbu province.
– Richard Johnston (Apollo Energy) for passing an Automatic Switch to me a couple months back that gave me the idea of setting up a backup system for the 9 Miles Clinic.
– Dr Guy Sansom from St Vincent’s hospital who sponsored my flight.
– James Mumford and Hugh Murtagh (both Apollo Energy) for their valuable input on the components.
– HOPE Worldwide making outreach to the poor a reality.