How solar power can benefit India’s healthcare industry

Irrespective of the kinds of systems hospitals might have in place, the best way to guarantee constant clean power is having a reliable, long term, renewable power-generating unit that is installed, operated, and located ideally within the hospital’s compound.

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico, one of the biggest problems in the island’s recovery was to do with the loss of electricity to its hospitals. This was endangering lives and hampering the tiny island’s efforts at recovery from the devastating natural disaster, as several life-saving machines and systems were not operational, and rendered useless. The hospitals were not geared to deal with extended power outages, especially because of the infrequency of such an event.
In India, though, the story is different. Power outages, including extended power cuts, are much more common; hospitals thus invest into expensive inverters and DG sets. Even these so-called solutions present their own problems in terms of the smoke and waste that they create, which are both a health risk and contribute greatly to air pollution, making fossil fuels-based energy generating solutions both, expensive and risky. Irrespective of the kinds of systems hospitals might have in place, the best way to guarantee constant clean power is having a reliable, long term, renewable power-generating unit that is installed, operated, and located ideally within the hospital’s compound. Since hospitals are unlikely to have the space or resources required to construct a wind farm or hydroelectric power plant, they are left with one viable alternative – a rooftop solar power plant.

Solar promises assured and uninterrupted power to a sector that cannot afford power cuts!
Healthcare technology remains entirely dependent upon electric power, from simple life-monitoring systems to complex diagnostic imaging units, everything in a hospital requires a constant stream of substantial electricity. Hospitals spend exorbitant amounts of money designing fail-safe systems; but research has shown that emergency generators start only 90% of the time during a power failure. That’s a 10% chance of a hospital being without power during a power cut, and each second without power has the potential to cause dozens of fatalities to patients on heart-lung machines or respirators.
This is where hybrid solar systems, which come with batteries can be essentially the perfect fit. Power generated during the day time/ peak hours of the sun can be stored and then utilised as and when required. Sizing of the solar system and the battery therefore would be key. With more than 300 sunny days in India, generation is virtually guaranteed. What’s more is that a well maintained solar system with right O&M techniques generally has an up time of 99%, which is incredibly reliable.

Rooftop solar power plants make use of residual space & have a 25 year lifetime
Unlike other forms of power generation, rooftop solar plant requires no independent space and can optimally utilize hospital rooftops. Solar policies of several states have in fact made it really easy to install solar on rooftops by passing a directive that you do not need to take any kind of permission from a Civic body to set up the system. Further, plants have a lifespan of 25 years, which ensures a high rate of return for the investment made. (you can calculate this with the easy-to-use MYSUN Solar Calculator).

Indian geography and government programs make it ideal
India’s geographical position around the Tropic of Cancer makes it an ideal candidate for rooftop solar power. A recent study highlighted how several Primary Health Centres (PHCs) in Chhattisgarh, India’s state-run, last-mile healthcare delivery institutions were using off-grid solar photovoltaic systems to augment the spotty electric supply they received. The Indian government’s data from 2012 showed that half of all PHCs across the country were either un-electrified or suffered from an irregular power supply. In response, the Chhattisgarh Renewable Energy Development Agency (CREDA) installed off-grid photovoltaic systems in 570 out of 800 PHCs in the state between 2012 and 2016. These systems were primarily connected to support critical functions when there was no constant supply of power.
The study found that in 2017, amongst PHCs receiving less than 20 hours of power supply daily, solar-powered PHCs admitted 60% more patients and conducted twice as many child deliveries in a month compared to the PHCs which lacked a solar power system. Additionally, nearly 90% of the PHCs with solar power systems reported savings on their energy expenditure, and about 25% depended exclusively upon solar power for critical equipment needing round-the-clock supply. The solar power systems also reduced equipment damage by avoiding voltage fluctuation. The success of this venture has led to similar initiatives in Maharashtra, Tripura, and Andhra Pradesh. Hospitals have also begun to recognize the merits of solar power generation; in fact, a 100-bed hospital in New Delhi is already using a rooftop solar power plant that generates 300kW.
In essence, if hospitals are looking to the perfect solution to their power problems, they only need to look up at the sun to find the best answer.

Gagan Vermani is Founder & CEO of MYSUN, one of India’s largest rooftop solar platform focused on providing end-to-end solar solutions.