Submitted by: STG International
Implemented country: Lesotho
Title: First Solar Powered Hospital in Lesotho
Matthew Orosz is president of STG International, a non-profit entity that brings new solar power applications to developing countries, headquartered at Cambridge, Massachusetts. Far away from Africa. Still, there is a unique connection. In 2000, Matt spent time as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Kingdom of Lesotho, also referred to as the Kingdom in the Sky, because of its altitude. Matt spent two years in the mountain regions, where he got first-hand experience of what it feels like to live without electricity and tap water. One particular thing he couldn’t forget was a locally manufactured solar-powered baking oven for bread with a parabolic reflector. Matt wanted to learn more so he majored in engineering and environmental technology at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Together with several colleagues he built new solar prototypes that have received numerous distinctions. In 2005, he was awarded a year’s scholarship by the World Bank and he returned to Lesotho, where he is now building a solar power plant for a hospital that he can show to the entire world. Matt’s motto stands for his entire life: Competence, diligence, integrity.
“Imagine taking some parts from a car, from an air conditioning system, some more parts from a plumber, and you build a machine that is run with heat instead of gasoline. Then you hook it up to a free energy source such as the sun, and what you get is a clean, sustainable, cost-efficient source of hot water, electricity and even cooling.” Since 2005, Matt and his team have been doing exactly that in Lesotho: Building a solar powered plant for a local hospital as a showcase project for other applications. Lesotho has 310 days of sunshine a year – another reason to take advantage of this form of energy. Parts of the power plant are manufactured locally. Affordable solar collectors are combined with a new kind of drive system, thus producing CO2-free power and hot water which presents a special kind of luxury in the cold mountain regions. All of it is 100 per cent renewable. In addition, an energy-based infrastructure is established in this rural area, which is high in demand because only 15 per cent of the country’s population of 1.8 million have access to electricity.
What is especially impressive is the solar power plant’s low costs: 1kWh for less than US$ 0.20 compared to US $0.30 for photovoltaic systems or US$ 0.50 for diesel generators. The system is currently undergoing test mode and will be hooked up to the grid in the course of the year. This micro-version of a solar power-plant can be used anywhere in the world. Such systems are especially needed for schools and hospitals. Jobs are created, important know-how transfer takes place, new economic sectors come into existence, people have a greater hope for a new quality of life, and it all happens without any burden to the environment. The project is funded, among others, by the World Bank, the Clinton Fund and the government of Lesotho.
“Rejoice at how far we have come, rejoice at how far we will yet go!”