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In March 2013, the Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais, the world’s largest solar powered hospital, was opened in Haiti, and so far it has exceeded all expectations, creating the possibility of more such developments to be created around the world.
Due to the fact that one of the biggest arguments against solar is its unreliability and intermittency, it may seem a poor choice to be used to power something as important as a hospital. Hospitals heavily rely on electrical systems that support the daily activities of doctors, staff, patients, and visitors, and a failure of power for even a few minutes can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.
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A wecaresolar report, explains that “sporadic electricity impairs the operation of surgical wards, delivery wards, essential hospital equipment, and hospital communications. This compromises the ability of health workers to provide safe, appropriate, and timely medical care. Labor and delivery nurses cannot quickly notify on-call physicians of emergencies. Midwives and physicians are forced to make treatment decisions without the benefit of necessary diagnostic tests. Obstetric procedures and emergency surgeries are conducted under grossly suboptimal conditions and can have tragic consequences.”
Hospitals and medical centres consume far more energy than typical buildings, and require a steady supply 24 hours a day in order to power equipment vital for sterilization, refrigeration, labs, computerization, cleaning, laundry, and food service, but it is actually this huge hunger for energy that makes them perfect for solar installations, as the savings are much higher.
In order to fund the development of the hospital, the Haitian government turned to Partners in Health (PIH), a non-profit organization based in Boston which specialises in supplying modern medical services to the poorer regions of the world. PIH worked in conjunction with the Haitian government, as well as other organizations such as the Red Cross, the GE Foundation, HP, Artists for Haiti, in order to create the hospital.
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Apart from the cost savings available, solar power was installed at the hospital in order to protect it from the intermittent power grid in Haiti, for which outages average three hours a day. The designers actually constructed a very simple array of 1,800 standard efficiency (14% conversion) solar panels, which provide a total 500 kilowatts of power generating capacity.
The result is that the hospital can provide more than 100% of its daily power needs, and even generates enough electricity to sell some back to the grid, helping it reduce annual operating costs by $379,000.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com