Solar energy a first for Interior Health Facilities


Solar energy has come to Penticton Regional Hospital and Summerland Health Centre in British Columbia in a new initiative designed to improve energy efficiency and reduce costs. The Public Sector Energy Conservation Agreement (PSECA) recently allocated $506,250 to Interior Health (IH) for the purchase and installation of 140 solar thermal panels.
Eighty solar panels were installed on the roof at Penticton Regional Hospital (PRH) in December. “At PRH we are doing solar thermal hot water heating to heat up our domestic hot water which is used in sinks, taps, showers, laundry and dishwashing,” said Ted Spearin, energy manager for IH. “About 49 per cent of our load will be offset, so we will be using 49 per cent less natural gas to heat up our domestic hot water. It’s the equivalent of about 37 tonnes of greenhouse gases that we are not emitting.”
Summerland Health Centre (SHC) has 60 solar panels installed that will heat over 71 per cent of its domestic hot water load. Annually this will reduce carbon emissions by about 20 metric tonnes, or the equivalent of taking three cars off the road.
There are several solar panel projects at other hospitals in B.C., but PRH and SHC are the first ones up and running, and the projects represent the first major solar energy installations for the Interior Health Authority. PRH was selected as a solar thermal candidate due to its size, the large amount of laundry processed at the site and the significant amount of sunlight it receives annually. SHC was chosen largely because its domestic hot water system was due for an upgrade and incorporating a solar component during construction made sense.
PRH and SHC will see their combined annual carbon emissions reduced by 57 metric tonnes or the equivalent of the amount of carbon contained in 228 full-sized trees. These reductions will not only provide direct energy savings, but will also help reduce Interior Health’s carbon offset purchases.
Interior Health spends approximately $13 million annually on energy and these new PSECA investments, together with pro-active behavioural change efforts throughout IH, will put a significant dent in the annual energy bill. Spearin also noted that, “Because the projects are fully funded by PSECA, none of the money is coming from Interior Health, so we are saving our operating dollars to help pay for clinical services which is our core business, providing health care. It is a real win-win situation.”
PSECA is a partnership between the B.C. Government, BC Hydro, Terasen Gas, and SolarBC that aims to allocate $25 million per year to schools (K-12), colleges and universities, Crown agencies and the health sector to help reduce GHG emissions, energy consumption and operating costs.