On-site solar power offers a significant efficiency boost for India’s rural healthcare clinics, a new study has found.

According to the Oxfam-funded study conducted by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), solar-powered primary healthcare centres in Chhattisgarh state admitted over 50 per cent more patients and delivered almost twice the number of babies in one month as “power-deficit” health centres without solar systems.

The study looked at 147 rural health centres across 15 districts in Chhattisgarh, 83 of which had installed solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. It found that although Chhattisgarh is a power-surplus state, one third of the health centres had unreliable or no electricity, with 90 per cent of health centres reporting power cuts during peak operating times and one third reporting power cuts in the evening. Over 21 per cent of health centres reported that their medical equipment was damaged due to voltage fluctuations.

According to the study, the Chhattisgarh State Renewable Energy Development Agency (CREDA) installed 570 2-kWp rooftop solar PV systems at health centres between 2012 and 2016. These systems can provide three to four hours of backup power at a health centre, CEEW analysis found, while the systems’ peak generation time matches the health centres’ peak load time of 12-4 pm, giving them the potential to be used as primary power as well.  

Cost savings resulting from switching from diesel gensets to PV power were reported by 90 per cent of the health centres. According to CEEW, diesel power costs between INR24 ($0.38) and INR26 per kWh, while a PV+battery system costs around INR12-14 per kWh.