Have you heard?! We’ve been busy working with a team of researchers from IBM Research Australia on Project Empower - a new endeavour taking place over the next six months. IBM Australia has a rich history of employees volunteering in their communities. Each year, ‘Bluegood Funds’ are allocated to encourage individuals or groups of IBMers to get involved in their communities by harnessing their skills and technology to deliver great outcomes for those in need, the environment or the other causes. The funds assist with the implementation of a community project run by IBM volunteers in support of a registered not-for-profit organization. IBM Research Australia was awarded funds in November 2020 and chose to partner with us at Positive Aid to improve health literacy and provide health services in remote communities in Kenya. This is a fantastic demonstration of finding new ways of connecting experts and locals through corporate social responsibility.
In order to expand our future operations at Positive Aid, a solution for remote electricity provision was necessary. Our staff in Uranga do not have access to ongoing electrical power, which makes it difficult to conduct effective monitoring and reporting, and limits the range and effectiveness of our health literacy outreach activities (such as the use of microscopes to teach local people about germs, safe water, and COVID-19; life-saving matters in rural villages).
Solar photovoltaic and energy storage systems are solutions to this problem - providing renewable energy without the need for a connection to the grid. The funding for Project Empower is therefore being used for three main activities: provision of renewable energy generation and storage; mobile health literacy outreach equipment; and site adaptation costs.
In January / February, the IBM research team assessed our Uranga headquarters using Google maps satellite images, and determined the available rooftop surface area is approximately 40 m2. This can accommodate up to 18 standard solar panels (1.7m x 1.0m). For those into solar stats - assuming a per-panel capacity of 260W, this means a maximum rooftop solar PV capacity of 4.68kW. (For more efficient panels this could rise to 6.5kW). If needed, there is also ample space on the property for installation of additional solar panels.
The IBM team assessed the generation of solar in Kenya throughout the year and via zoom calls with Positive Aid staff, performed an analysis of approximate daily energy needs for our equipment. They tracked the energy usage required for our current laptops, mobile phones, and microscopes, and even outlined the use of potential future equipment like a hemocue, Centrifuge, or IV pumps in a health /birth centre.
After determining the figures, we joined IBM staff on conference calls with three local East African based suppliers of solar and renewable energy solutions. These meetings are still underway in order to determine the best matched supplier to assist with the solar installation.
Project Empower will be a wonderfully unique opportunity to improve the lives of thousands of people. Positive Aid and IBM Research Australia relish this chance to directly implement and test ongoing research outcomes under development at IBM Research Australia that will connect to an ongoing effort to better understand and evaluate opportunities for reducing future impacts of climate change.