Imagine being a surgeon, and having to wonder if the power’s going to go off while you’re performing a delicate operation. In the US, we got just a taste of this during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; in much of the developing world, though, this is daily reality for health care providers. Around Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the power regularly goes down for up to three hours a day; for physicians, nurses, and therapists, that means losing access to monitoring equipment, refrigeration, lighting, and other necessities of modern health care.
So, when Partners in Health decided to build Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais (University Hospital) outside of the capital city, the didn’t look to the grid for reliable power; rather, they looked to the sun. The new hospital sports an array of 1,800 solar panels on its roof that can produce an excess of electricity on sunny days that’s fed back into the national grid.
Of course, sunlight comes and goes, even in the tropics. And solar panels, while generally sturdy, can suffer reductions in performance in high heat. In order to make sure that the new facility would have reliable, consistent power, PIH brought in solar and design experts from around the world to build an array specifically for the hospital. Jim Ansara, the hospital’s director of design and construction, notes “This is an incredibly simple system to maintain… All we need to do is rinse the panels quarterly with water.”
While the solar system itself is simple, it’s providing 100% of daytime power for a very complex, modern facility. The nation’s first teaching hospital, University Hospital features state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment, as well as communications technology that allows medical and nursing students to access information from around the world. To get a clear sense of what’s being powered by that array on the roof, check out PIH’s promo video
From its opening in March to the beginning of May, University Hospital has served over 4000 patients already… all on solar power. In addition to saving lives, the facility will also save a ton of operating costs through its use of solar and other energy efficiency features.
Know of other health care facilities relying largely on renewable energy? Tell us about them in the comments.