July 7, 2020 Emmanuella Ngororano

Innovating for new technologies and products to advance energy access and providing the rural communities including health facilities in remote areas with reliable and affordable energy remained the focus of our members amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. This month, we approached Winch Energy to learn more about the Winch Clinic; a mobile health facility fully powered by renewable energy unveiled in April and how it is a much needed solution for healthcare facilities in these COVID-19 times.

Welcome to our One-on-One with Winch Energy

A 30kW Winch RPU installed in a Winch owned and operated project in Benin 

Can you briefly share with us a bit about Winch Energy’s history and your current operations?

Winch Energy was founded in 2008, and has developed, built, managed and operated more than 150MW of on-grid wind and solar projects across Europe, which were then sold in 2014. In 2016, following an investment by Total EREN, Winch began focusing on decentralised off-grid solar solutions and developed our own technology for this purpose, which we call the Remote Power Unit (RPU). The RPU is a containerized solar generator with battery storage design specifically for use in minigrids in rural and other off-grid or bad grid locations. Since 2016, Winch has built projects or supplied technology in Uganda, Sierra Leone, Benin, Mauritania and Togo and continues to develop projects in other countries. In 2019, we received another investment into Winch from the Itochu Corporation.

What are Winch’s 2020-2021 goals and objectives?

Over the next 12 months, Winch has a pipeline to install over 52 minigrids in Sierra Leone and Uganda, connecting over 7,000 additional customers to clean, reliable and ample minigrid electricity. These projects were the result of competitive tender processes in both countries, are now fully developed and about to start the construction phase. In the last few weeks, despite the various global COVID-19 lockdowns, Winch has also installed the first phase of a 127kW minigrid project on a Ugandan Island in Lake Victoria, providing much needed essential internet and electricity services to several communities on the island. In addition to these, Winch will also be installing projects in Angola and Sao Tome in the next 12 months, whilst we also continue to develop projects in Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Ethiopia that we are targeting to close in 2021. 

In April, Winch unveiled the Winch Clinic; a mobile health facility fully powered by renewable energy, could you tell us more about it?

Winch is a technology designer and manufacturer and has been engineering the Winch Clinic for some time. The Winch Clinic offers a solution to potential pressures on rural health infrastructure from COVID-19. Unreliable electricity access can lead to the spoiling of medicine as well as the inability to use vital communication and medical equipment, such as purification units and ventilators.

The Winch Clinic

The Winch Clinic uses, as its base, the Winch Remote Power Unit, which have been successfully deployed in five African countries to date. The units have an average design life of 35 years and are currently reliably operating in the most remote and harsh rural environments.  The clinic has been designed to overcome the barriers of time, affordability and reliability, which can prevent vulnerable populations across the developing countries from accessing healthcare. It is quick and easy to install and modular, which allows flexibility in meeting the needs of each government we work with.

Do you work in partnership with governments, other health organizations or how do you ensure the Winch Clinic is made available for the communities in need?

Winch has already been working with governments in electrifying health centers. Most notably, in Sierra Leone, we entered into a public private partnership project that originated from the 2014 Ebola crisis. As part of Sierra Leone’s post Ebola recovery, the Government of Sierra Leone, in partnership with DFID and UNOPS, released a tender to electrify rural health centers in order to strengthen health infrastructure in case of another pandemic or epidemic. Winch was successful on this tender and towards the end of 2019 converted 12 electrified health centers into solar minigrids to also extended electricity to the surrounding community. The project puts community health centers at the focal point of each minigrid and is a timely reminder in the current crisis of the benefits of being pro-active in the use of decentralised renewable energy as solutions to challenges we face. Winch will be connecting another 12 health centers in Sierra Leone over the next year through the installation of 12 more RPU’s and minigrids. 

The Winch Clinic is also available for Governments to assist them in their resilient infrastructure planning. For Governments interested in rapid deployment of the Winch Clinic or RPU, long term and affordable export credit facilities are available as they are for all Winch products. Long term financing with repayment periods of up to 18 years are achievable, with fixed rate funding that is lower than can be obtained from the commercial bank market. Winch views this financing approach as a potential solution to tackle some of the more common challenges faced by the minigrid sector and a potential pathway to scale.   

Does Winch partner with other minigrid developers? If so, who should interested people contact to learn more about partnership opportunities?

Yes, we do! Winch is always on the lookout for like-minded developers to partner with. Winch can act as either the lead financing partner (through our financing platform) or technology partner (through our product range). Winch is utilizing this model in Nigeria amongst other countries. Winch takes the view that the issues facing the minigrid market are very challenging but successful collaboration between different stakeholders in this space is one way of speeding up the much-needed change and progress that has long been overdue.


                Interview by Emmanuella Ngororano (Africa Minigrid Developers Association)

Up-close with Winch Energy-Renewable Energy and Internet Services for Rural African Communities

Winch Energy is a global energy group creating specialized and sustainable solutions for off-grid distributed power. Winch Energy is reinventing power generation, electricity distribution and telecommunications access for the 1.2 billion people across the globe who do not have access to electricity, running water and communications.

Access to power is about so much more than energy, it is the conduit for opportunity and prosperity. Winch Energy provides sustainable, wired access to power for up to 40% less than rural communities currently spend on their energy consumption. By enabling access to energy Winch Energy is empowering communities, creating wealth, transforming lives and creating freedom for individuals.