British Columbia

Port Alberni hospital has Vancouver Island's largest array of solar power

The 400 solar panels cost $320,000, and Island Health Authority will monitor savings they provide before considering other solar projects.

Solar power could help with high hydro rates during peak hours on hot days

Some of the solar panels on the roof of West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni. (Dave Biro/CBC)

Who loves the sun? — turns out West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni does.

That building is home to 400 solar panels — the largest power-generating array on Vancouver Island, in fact.

The panels will be doing their work in the weeks and months ahead to see how much money Island Health Authority can save by using the power of the sun.

"When it's really hot and sunny and we're using a lot of power to keep the hospital cool, the rates get very high with BC Hydro," Deanna Fourt, director of energy efficiency and conservation with Island Health Authority told All Points West host Robyn Burns.

"So it's going to work very nicely with the solar. This is what we're thinking, because it's going to be offsetting those really high-rate days or high-rate times."

The panels and their installation cost $320,000 and Fourt says they won't be a big money-saver up front, but the hope is they will save money over the course of 30 years.

Port Alberni heat

Port Alberni's hospital was chosen because the town gets so hot; no other hospitals with Island Health are using solar power for electricity, but solar is used to heat water at Victoria General, Aberdeen Hospital, Saanich Peninsula Hospital and at a long-term care home in Duncan.

"We're continuing to look for other roofs. We've had a few assessments done," Fourt said. "I think the idea of installing photovoltaics in situations where we might be increasing electrical production … then it would be a nice mix."

The hospital will be closely monitoring power savings over the summer to see how much money it saves before the authority adds solar to other sites.

With files from CBC Radio One's All Points West

Partof a panoramic view showing some of the solar panels. (Dave Biro/CBC)

To hear the full story, click on the audio labelled: Port Alberni hospital gets Island's largest solar power array

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