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EMeRG Ambulance Gets Two Solar Panels
February 13, 2012
Solar energy will run the emergency vehicle’s battery-powered devices.
Emergency vehicles carry life-saving equipment such as powered airway suction devices, heavy duty flashlights and tablet computers for logging critical patient information.
All of these devices require power, and most ambulances rely on plugging into an electrical outlet to get that power.
But EMeRG – George Washington University’s student-based emergency medical response group– is using a different solution: the sun.
Two solar panels on the roof of the EMeRG ambulance now provide power to the ambulance from the sun’s natural heat.
“Ambulances need an external power source to be of best use. Equipment like our portable airway suction units use special, integrated batteries that need a constant trickle-charge and are very expensive to replace when not properly maintained. It's not like you can just run down to CVS when they get low,” said David Fifer, a paramedic and coordinator of EMeRG at GW. “In our line of work, we need to be confident that our equipment will work the moment we need it, every single time. These solar panels give us that confidence, and we'll realize the cost-savings almost immediately.”
As EMeRG coordinator, Mr. Fifer oversees GW student emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and teaches them best practices.
Up until last month, the EMeRG ambulance relied on electrical power. An extension cord had to run across the sidewalk on G Street connecting to an electrical outlet in front of EMeRG’s office, which is located at 2033 G St. This was becoming cumbersome, and Mr. Fifer wanted to find a long-term solution.
“Since we don't have an EMeRG service bay, we must park the ambulance on the street. Having the solar panels installed means we don't have to lay extension cords across the sidewalk or worry about disconnecting them when headed to an emergency,” said Kevin Hay, GW police chief. “This is a win-win solution. Knowing we have the power of the sun to recharge our ambulance's systems is a green solution that is also practical.”
Not only will the solar panels help to reduce GW’s carbon footprint, but they will also save about $2,370 a year in electrical costs, Mr. Fifer said.
"We applaud EMeRG for taking the initiative to incorporate sustainability into their processes,” said Sophie Waskow, sustainability project facilitator for GW’s Office of Sustainability. “This is a great example of how renewable energy can be used on a small scale to make a positive impact on operations."
The solar panels, which cost $1,500 plus $1,000 for installation, will pay for themselves in a year and a half, Mr. Fifer said. The Office of Safety and Security covered these costs.
“This serves two university objectives: reducing costs and utilizing a sustainable energy source,” said Darrell Darnell, senior associate vice president of safety and security. “But at the same time it keeps a valuable service in place for the GW community.”