Eaton switchgear for pioneering Mission Hospital

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Eaton has contributed switchgear, free of charge, to a remarkable development project in a remote area of North West Zambia. It provides changeover facilities between supplies from a new 750kW hydro-electric project and standby generating plant serving K

Eaton has contributed switchgear, free of charge, to a remarkable development project in a remote area of North West Zambia.  It provides changeover facilities between supplies from a new 750kW hydro-electric project and standby generating plant serving Kalene Mission Hospital and nursing training school.

Kalene Hospital, founded 100 years ago by missionaries, has a reputation for being in the front line of the fight against malaria.  Feasibility studies in the late 1950s had noted the potential for hydropower but the remote location made it impracticable to bring in the heavy plant required.  However, recently the North West Zambia Development Trust, a charity set up to assist development in the area, decided it could be done by utilizing local manpower with turbine plant broken down into manageable units of up to 10 tonnes.  The project, which would normally cost about £10 million, was completed for an estimated £1.5 million thanks to the efforts of around 400 local people, engineers from overseas who gave their time voluntarily, and companies like Eaton who contributed equipment.

“Our plan was to get hydropower into Kalene Hospital and then to supply schools, clinics, villages and a small town, Ikelenge, with power for lighting, grinding mills, irrigation, welding etc.” says Gordon McKillop, a missionary-engineer based in North West Zambia.

The hydro-electric plant supplies the hospital, nursing school, workshops and staff housing through a 300kW transformer.  The hospital has two standby generating sets, rated 120kW and 80kW, which can be used if there is a power outage from the hydro plant, for example caused by lightning during tropical storms.

Eaton supplied a 500A fuse combination switch and 500A three-pole changeover switch for switching from hydropower to diesel standby.  It also supplied two 320A changeover switches and a 320A three-pole isolator switch for the generator room.

One recurrent problem in the tropics is damage caused by vermin finding their way into cable boxes and switchgear – cable insulation is sometimes chewed and rats have been known to cause temporary short-circuits by getting into equipment and electrocuting themselves across the live phases.  The Eaton switchgear provided gives maximum protection against such problems but the NWZDT engineers took additional precautions by boxing in all cable entry points.

Another problem that had to be overcome was that the wall of the generator room was built of adobe brick.  This necessitated construction of a special steel frame with through bolts to ensure a secure fixing.

“We now have all the switchgear connected and working perfectly” says Gordon McKillop.  “We are grateful for the way in which Eaton/MEM responded to needs presented to them and are grateful for the professional way they have dealt with these requests.”

Kevin Harris, International Policy Manager for Eaton, comments “We like to support initiatives like this that will benefit local communities over a long period of time.  I am always amazed at the way such local problems are overcome in places like Zambia.”

Meanwhile North West Zambia Development Trust has plans to add a further 750kW of hydropower when funds permit.  The civil engineering works for this have already been carried out during Phase One.

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