Foundation, Solar Company Partner to Help Power DRC Hospital

Posted September 25th, 2012 at 3:00 am (UTC-5)
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The U.S.-based Global Echo foundation has announced it is partnering with Chinese company Suntech to provide solar power to a hospital in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Philippe Cousteau Jr., the co-founder of Global Echo, told VOA the project will help the Panzi Hospital address its problem of depending on expensive, unreliable energy.

“You want to make sure you can have reliable hot water, you want to make sure that you can conduct surgeries regularly when there's an emergency, you want to make sure that you have good, hot meals for the patients. So indeed, what these solar panels will do is exceed the current demand of the hospital with reliable, consistent energy.”

The hospital, located in Bakavu, specializes in treating gynecological disorders, particularly those suffered through reproductive trauma and sexual violence.

Cousteau said the facility uses a mix of oil, coal, electricity and diesel, and that switching to solar energy will have both a financial and environmental impact.

“This is helping the hospital by having consistent, renewable, reliable energy that's essentially free once the capital costs — which we are all contributing — are complete, thus saving the hospital a great deal of money that it can then invest in infrastructure and in serving its patients better.”

Suntech is donating about $500,000 worth of solar panels for the project. The company says the panels will provide up to 300 kilowatts of power.

Global Echo is contributing at least $150,000 needed for equipment, design and implementation, and is working to bring others to provide another $250,000 to meet those costs.

The foundation is supported by money from the Global Echo investment fund, which launched earlier this year with a strategy of investing in companies that have a positive technological, social or environmental impact on the planet.

Cousteau said the fund began as a way to “innovate different ways of creating change.”

“Anybody has an opportunity through their investment choices to invest with value, to invest with impact, and to follow their values in terms of where they allocate their investments.”

Cousteau is an explorer and environmental advocate, and is the grandson of famous French filmmaker and oceanographer Jacques -Yves Cousteau.