IEEE Smart Village System Delivers Solar Power to Nigerian COVID-19 Isolation Center

Four men standing in front of a microgrid.
IEEE Senior Member Chief Tunde Salihu [third from left] and his employees successfully install a microgrid at the medical facility treating COVID-19 patients in Illorin, Kwara, Nigeria.
Photo: Shaybis Nigeria Ltd.

By: Kathy Pretz

THE INSTITUTE When the coronavirus spread to Illorin, the state capital of Kwara in western Nigeria, a medical center was built to isolate and treat the rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 patients. But like other communities in the country, the facility had limited access to electricity.

That was until Shaybis Nigeria donated a SunBlazer IV solar-powered system. The system, which was designed by IEEE Smart Village volunteers, will provide electricity to the first wing of the four-wing facility. Shaybis Nigeria, also based in Illorin, is one of three international manufacturers of the SunBlazer system. The company has been providing solar-power microgrids throughout the country for the past three years.

“These beds will be used to treat and provide care for those infected with the coronavirus to help avoid spreading it to others,” says Chief Tunde Salihu, the company’s CEO and an IEEE senior member. “The solar-powered system will enable the medical team to power ventilators, monitoring machines, and sanitation equipment.”

The facility was formally commissioned by the government in May. Since the installation, Salihu reports his company has been retained by the government to provide electricity for a number of doctor’s offices and other medical facilities.

SUNBLAZER HISTORY

photo
Photo: Shaybis Nigeria Ltd.
Employees from Shaybis Nigeria set up the SunBlazer IV unit.

A team of IEEE Power & Energy Society volunteers, as well as industry professionals, designed and developed the original SunBlazer to help Haiti after the country was devastated by an earthquake in 2010. After feedback from field deployments, the system was enhanced over the years into a modular, adaptable configuration to flexibly meet the needs of each individual installation. Each base unit has six 300-watt solar panels that provide 1,800 watts total to charge portable battery kits, which can generate enough power to light rooms for several days. The unit has AC and DC outputs, which can charge cellphones and run small appliances. The SunBlazer IV can be assembled and expanded as needed.

HELPING HAND

IEEE Smart Village partners with entrepreneurs, such as Salihu, in underserved areas to set up microutilities, bringing electricity to thousands while also creating jobs in the community. IEEE Smart Village is one of the donor-supported priority initiatives of the IEEE Foundation.

For the past few years, the IEEE Smart Village program and IEEE members in Nigeria have been working to bring electricity to that country’s remote villages, including those in the state of Kwara. Salihu led the local team there. He is a leading solar power engineer in the country, with more than 30 years of experience in the field of electrical engineering. Salihu is also the former chair of the IEEE Nigeria Section.

Salihu formed his startup in 2015 to provide stand-alone power systems for homes and offices throughout Kwara and nearby villages. He is an advocate for sustainable, community development.

This article originally appeared in IEEE Spectrum on 10 June 2020.