If you were to list the places that really need energy, hospitals would be near the top of the list. They need to keep patients warm, run oxygen machines and dialysis, switch the lights on for night time operations, keep medicines refrigerated, use scanners, heart monitors, computers… the list goes on and on. And, if we’re not careful, the carbon emissions really start mounting up.
Fortunately, there are hospitals keen on making the planet healthy, as well as their patients. And in some hospitals, where electricity is in short supply, using clean, renewable power isn’t an add on, it’s vital for patient care.
Here are five of our favourite hospitals making innovative use of clean energy.
Sustainable solar in rural Nepal
In rural Nepal, electricity can be hard to come by. Plenty of hospitals and clinics are totally off grid, and long power cuts plague those that are connected. Without electricity it’s really difficult to care for sick patients - and that’s where the idea for SunFarmer came from.
Their mission is to make solar panels affordable for hospitals. The rent-to-buy scheme means hospitals put up 20% of the price and pay the rest in monthly instalments. They also organise local financing and loans for clinics that can’t afford the initial costs.
SunFarmer are responsible for installing and maintaining the panels, so any time there’s a problem they send a local engineer to fix it. ‘Install and run’ this aint. In 2016 the solar panels they’d installed produced enough electricity for 9,400 caesarean sections in hospitals.
Clean heat and cycle sharing
University Hospital of South Manchester proudly call themselves the greenest hospital in Britain. In just five years they cut their carbon emissions by 28%.
They really went to town on energy saving with insulation, low energy bulbs, motion censored lights, and ultra efficient boilers. Not content with that, they installed two giant biomass boilers and some heat pumps too. Those alone save them 3400 tonnes of CO2 every year.
The hospital also started a car share project - with the best parking spots available to car sharers. Even better, they’re working with the local police on their cycle scheme. The hospital is given second hand and abandoned bikes found by the police, then a volunteer comes to fix them up and the staff can use them to commute.
Security problems and the civil war mean power cuts in Libya can last for 17 hours. So the UN Development Programme has turned to solar power to keep hospitals going. In January 2017, they installed panels at ten hospitals - that’s two and a half every week! They’ve also installed batteries that store extra power that’s generated in the daytime to be used over night. The first was Abu Sleem hospital in Tripoli, which uses the consistent power for their intensive care unit.
Harnessing the wind
Keen to save cash and carbon, Queen Elizabeth’s hospital in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, went big. In Spring 2016 they built a wind turbine in the staff car park.
The turbine is owned by energy company Ecotricity, but the hospital use most of the power (enough for 350 homes). They get a 20% discount on their electricity bills, which means more money to spend on important stuff like making people better. It’ll also save 600 tonnes of CO2 every year - that’s the same as 60 MRI scanners (and those things are giant!).
Saving lives with solar and air
In Ugandan hospitals, pure oxygen can be hard to come by. Add power supply difficulties into the mix and you get a serious problem for patients with lung problems like pneumonia. So scientists have created a bit of kit that helps keep them alive. The best part? It uses resources we’ve got plenty of: sun and air.
It’s essentially a solar oxygen machine. Solar panels generate electricity which is stored in batteries. These power an oxygen concentrator which strips the nitrogen out of air to produce pure oxygen. Tests show it works just as well as a conventional oxygen machine. The plan is to install it in 80 hospitals across Uganda.
This It’s Happening blog post is funded by our pals at Ben & Jerry’s
Banner photo: Possible, creative commons 2.0