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FACES OF CHANGE - Harnessing the power of the sun to save human lives in Kenya

For years, Christine Chemjor, a nurse from Pelawa, struggled to ensure children living in Kadjiado county received vaccines.  “People will travel long distances to access the dispensary and I would have to tell them that there were no vaccines available because of storage problems.” Thanks to the SolarChill project, the sun is now providing the energy needed to store the vaccines and keep them fresh at the rural Pelawa dispensary health facility, located three hours from Nairobi. Photographs by Guillaume Collanges.

SolarChill Project solar-powered refrigerator (SolarChill) was developed more than ten years ago in an international project involving UN Environment OzonAction Branch, Greenpeace International, GIZ, UNICEF, WHO, industrial partners and Danish Technological Institute. The refrigerator can operate entirely off solar PV panels, without batteries or additional electronics, and is therefore useful in locations where little maintenance and reliable operation is mandatory.

Off-grid refrigerators have long been used in remote areas of Kenya and other countries. But previous refrigerators were either using kerosene or gases, which were both harmful to the environment and posed a health hazard, in addition to contributing to climate change and ozone depletion.

“Refrigeration technology is the cornerstone of modern life, providing basic comforts such as food safety and security and health services. SolarChill  is  a  breakthrough  technology  providing  solar  powered  refrigeration  and  by-passing  the  need  for  lead  storage  batteries.  The  technology  uses  hydrocarbons  instead of  hydro fluorocarbons  in  the  insulation  and  the  refrigerant  cycle.  It is therefore both ozone and climate-friendly”, said Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, Head of UN Environment OzonAction

Christine is one of thousands of nurses in Kenya saving lives with SolarChill. It is estimated that more than 2,000 units have been installed in the country since 2008, and 10,000 worldwide. Solar Direct Drive Cooling, the technology that inspired and initiated SolarChill, continues to take over the vaccine cooling market. Presently there are eight manufacturers with 19 different Solar Direct Drive products that have been certified for vaccine cooling by WHO, each working to improve healthcare access across the world.

The SolarChill in Kenya is a postcard from the heart of what is possible. In a region where human civilization is thought to have been shaped, the SolarChill is creating a compelling path on the importance of climate and ozone technology.

ABOUT UN ENVIRONMENT OZONACTION

Since 1991, UN Environment OzonAction has been providing compliance assistance services to all developing countries and countries with economies in transition, as one of the Implementing Agencies under the Montreal Protocol.  OzonAction strengthens the capacity of governments, industry and civil society to implement the Parties decisions under the Montreal Protocol to protect the Earth's ozone layer.

OzonAction has the unique mandate of coordinating the national networks of ozone officers from all 147 developing countries and implements more than 500 projects in more than 120 countries.

With the historical Agreement on HFCs reached in Kigali, OzonAction will now support countries to phase-down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Reducing emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under the Kigali Amendment can prevent up to 0.5°C of global warming, while continuing to protect the ozone layer.

"When Christine welcomed me in the dispensary, she made me realize very quickly that her SolarChill fridge was a central piece for providing health services in the region. It's visually quite simple as compared to any fridge, but the fact that it is powered by solar energy without any batteries, and that it is HFC free, make it unique. By not depleting the ozone layer, nor contributing to global warming, this technology is truly remarkable. SolarChill is a great climate and ozone friendly technology that saves lives. It deserves to grow at a very large scale."  Guillaume Collanges

Guillaume Collanges, 45 years old, was born in France and is the founding member of the collective Argos. As a freelance journalist, he focuses on the daily life of simple people and the underprivileged in his work. He is well known for his four year long project focusing on climate refugees, which was featured in publications such as Geo Magazine and le Figaro, among others.

FACTS AND FIGURES

More than one billion people in the world still live without electricity

The NGO Practical Action estimates that one billion people are served by clinics and hospitals without electricity, with nearly half of health facilities in India and a third in Sub-Saharan Africa lacking any electrical power.

9000 SolarChill units have been installed worldwide

Currently there are eight SolarChill manufacturers worldwide. Palfridge a locally owned refrigeration equipment manufacturer in Swaziland employs about 640 people.

 

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