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PROJECT UPDATE: Successful Conclusion of RREAL's Work in Liberia

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Today, we are so happy to announce that we have achieved great success due to some strong partnerships and perseverance. Here’s the status:

  • Phebe Hospital. With your support in 2017, RREAL installed a 100 kW solar system at Phebe Hospital and integrated the array with a diesel generator. Unfortunately, after a few years of operation, the initial generator-connected array broke-down, and the team at Phebe Hospital was unable to fix it, requiring us to repurpose the array entirely. Today we are pleased to report that In its place RREAL and our partners created a 27 kW system with battery back-up that directly powers the critical functions of the Emergency Room, ICU, and operating rooms. We’re relieved to have found a long-term solution to power Phebe Hospital.

  • Curran Lutheran Hospital. We then transported some of the panels from the initial Phebe Hospital array to Curran Lutheran Hospital to build another 27 kW system with battery back-up that powers this hospital’s critical functions.

  • Clinics. 896 First Solar panels were donated to support a solar array at Curran Lutheran Hospital, but in the end they could not be used there due to racking and clamping issues. These panels are now in Monrovia, Liberia, awaiting deployment for small systems that will power the critical functions at an estimated 65 bush clinics that currently have no electricity at all.

  • Local Solar Capacity. Building local solar capacity is just as important as building the solar systems themselves. The remaining panels from the original Phebe Hospital array will be deployed in the next few years to add even more solar capacity beyond the small systems that will be installed at remote clinics. This is possible because we now have a Liberian solar team in place working under the guidance of Pickering Associates. One of RREAL's Liberian partners, Willie Voupawoe, who was among six Africans who trained with RREAL at our Minnesota facilities in October 2017, leads this team.

  • Continued support from afar. We have a $46,000 fund in place to provide continued support for wages and equipment, including plans to buy a new generator for Curran Lutheran Hospital that will function independently from the solar system.

We think these developments bring a rather elegant solution to what was a very difficult situation—one that came about during a global pandemic, which further added a need for timely solutions. When we say this is due to great partners, that is very, very true.

We extend our deep gratitude to each of you who contributed to RREAL’s work in Liberia through the years, as well as the following partners and major supporters:

First and foremost, Chip Pickering of Pickering Associates, Bold Women of the ELCA, Mary Jo Mettler, the Northeastern Minnesota Women of the ELCA, Global Health Ministries, the Ilsababy Foundation, the Toledo Community Foundation, First Solar, Mary Sloan, the many individuals who contributed, and the good people at Phebe and Curran Hospitals.

Above: Arial view of Curran Lutheran Hospital

Below: Acknowledgement of the donors, foundations, &

partners who made this work possible

Moving Forward

As you may recall, in March of 2020, RREAL’s staff and board of directors (just before the onset of the pandemic in Minnesota) gathered to discuss the future of the organization, specifically our goals and strategic vision.

After days of discussion, we decided to conclude work abroad so we can dig deeper into solar work in our own region.

RREAL’s mission remains the same: To make solar accessible to all communities.

RREAL’s vision is to use solar power to reduce poverty in Central and Northern Minnesota.

Going forward, RREAL will focus on projects closer to home, working to:

  • Build and expand the clean energy economy in our region, aiming to broaden solar education and workforce opportunities through ongoing partnerships such as our work with White Earth Nation;

  • Add more solar power to regional schools to reduce energy expenses and spur interest in clean, solar energy;

  • Provide solar education tools like this K-8 Solar Curriculum to engage students and provide learning materials to support in-school, solar, STEM education;

  • Expand solar power among lower income households and communities, including ongoing partnerships with Habitat for Humanity chapters;

  • Assist statewide partners and allies in solar projects that reduce poverty and lower energy expenses through projects like this map, created with partners at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs.

RREAL’s work continues. Though we have refocused our energy closer to home, we know that the work we did together in Sub-Saharan Africa is critical to the health and well-being of those who will utilize services at Phebe and Curran hospitals.

People like you for make our work possible! Thanks for believing a clean energy future is possible.

We look forward to the good work ahead, and we hope you share our pride in what we’ve accomplished, together.

Now, let's dig in and keep working to bring clean solar power to more households and communities in Northern and Central Minnesota!

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