You may have heard about the planned electrical shutdown that took place at Mount Saint Joseph Hospital (MSJ) on September 10, and while we know these types of shutdowns are a hassle for all involved, this one was for a pretty great reason.

It was a key step in the process of bringing 102 solar panels (each rated at 540 watts) online! And as of September 29, 2022 MSJ is officially using solar power. Not only that, but it’s the first health care facility in the Lower Mainland using this type of solar panel.

They’re making a dent in PHC’s environmental footprint.

The installation of solar panels at MSJ has been in the works for a while (nearly two years!), but it was serendipitous timing for the project when it was determined the 1944 and 1955 buildings at the hospital were in need of a roof replacement regardless.

Anthony (Tony) Munster, Executive Director of Projects, Planning & Facilities Management shared that it was decided PHC would:

“Add solar panels at the same time as completing the roof replacement work because combining the two projects lowers the cost of the installation process, and the installation and use of the panels will reduce the overall utility bills for the hospital, and the new roofs enabled the installation to meet the City of Vancouver seismic and wind uplift requirements.”

Most importantly, the energy generated by the panels is 100 per cent renewable. This means the energy offsets greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that would normally occur through receiving energy from the usual utility grid aka MSJ is going green!

Another bonus is the cost of installation is covered.

If you’re thinking “wow, installing solar panels on a hospital has got to be expensive” you’re not wrong. However, the funding of this project is covered by rebate money PHC received from FortisBC and BC Hydro for earlier energy efficiency projects that have already been completed across PHC sites.

In this instance, going green meant going even more green, but cheaper!

An added bonus is they’re very easy to maintain. An annual cleaning to remove pollen is sufficient to keep them going for 20 to 25 years.

And this is just early days, there’s so much more to come.

“Electrical capacity is constrained at all PHC sites” says Tony. “As we move towards reducing our GHG emissions, we need extra power capacity in order to install new equipment.”

That’s where solar comes in. The installation of solar panels, when coupled with the LED lighting upgrades that are already underway means capacity on the usual power grid is freed up, allowing for other systems that maybe can’t be powered by solar to get the power they need to function. This in turn allows for more GHG reducing initiatives to be put in place.

For MSJ specifically, the hospital uses approximately 600 kilowatts of electricity every day. With these newly installed solar panels pulling in electricity all year round (yes, even when it’s raining), there’s a lot more space on the MSJ electrical grid to install other GHG reducing items. Some of these items are heat pumps for cooling, which rejects heat into other systems to be reclaimed to help keep the temperatures in the hospital within a comfortable range for patients, residences and staff.

So, while the remaining section of MSJ’s roof is up next, other PHC sites will see solar panels installed as well. St. Vincent’s: Langara and Holy Family Hospital are set to power up in the near future.

The Communications & Public Affairs team took a field trip to see them in person, and you can too!

“Unlike the other GHG reduction projects which have been taking place behind the scenes, these panels are a visible reminder of PHC’s commitment to sustainability” says Tony.

As you can see from the photos throughout, the Communications & Public Affairs team had the chance to go on a tour to see the new panels up close and in-person, and we must say, they’re pretty impressive!

While they may look like they’ve been placed randomly across the roof, it’s actually a very precise process. Each panel needs to be at a 12 degree angle to ensure maximum sunlight when considering the latitude of Vancouver. Additionally, the panels need to be placed so they aren’t obstructed or shaded by each other or by other infrastructure. It’s quite complex.

If you’re interested in seeing them for yourself, the Facilities team is offering tours to any PHC staff/medical staff member who is interested. Reach out to Peter Keyes to organize a day and time. 

But wait, there’s more.

These solar panels are just one of the ways PHC is making a difference when it comes to reducing GHG’s and the organizations environmental footprint. There are lots of other initiatives underway that you can both learn about and get involved in. To get you started, check-out:​