Mobile Medical Clinics with Victron Energy

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    Power to serve our military veterans, wherever they may live

    In 2023, Off-Grid Power Systems (OGPS) was hired by a leading specialty vehicle manufacturer that specializes in building custom mobile medical and dental clinics for their clients. One of their clients is a large mobile clinic operator, with a fleet of vehicles that operate across the continental United States, including Alaska. These clinics operate in the extreme heat of the Southwest and Southeast as well as the extreme cold of the Upper Midwest and Alaska. Redundancy in power, heating, and cooling are critical to the operation of these vehicles. And, reducing each vehicle’s carbon footprint with solar power and minimizing the use of the on-board diesel generator were important to the operator of these vehicles.

    These clinics travel from city to city, usually staying four or five days in each city. They typically set up for the week in a local hotel and their schedule is announced in advance. Just like a stationary clinic, they work via appointment to serve their patients. Unlike a stationary clinic, they bring medical and laboratory services to far-flung, mostly rural locations far away from hospitals, primary care facilities, or VA medical centers. These clinics also visit Native American nations to serve those who have trouble receiving primary care.

    Each clinic is built on a 40 foot long Freightliner chassis and has three rooms – two examination rooms and one laboratory. The bus is self-contained, with hot and cold running water, restroom facilities, phlebotomy bench, blood centrifuge, mobile and panoramic x-ray machines, audiology equipment, otoscopes, vaccine and lab sample refrigerators (three in total), EKG machine, emergency defribulator, etc. Essentially, they are just like your family doctor’s office on wheels.

    The System

    OGPS designed, engineered, and installed the electrical, heating, and air conditioning systems for four of these clinics in 2023. Our systems consist of:

    • Two Victron Energy Quattro 48 volt 5kVA inverter/chargers, configured to provide both 240V and 120V AC in all three rooms
    • 1,800Wp of Merlin Solar Trailblazer solar panels mounted on the roof
    • One Victron SmartSolar MPPT 150/45 solar charge controller
    • 20kWh of Victron battery storage
    • A Victron Cerbo GX and Touch 70 GX touchscreen controller
    • A Rixen’s Enterprises MCS16 central heating system built around an Eberspacher diesel hydronic furnace
    • Three Cruise N Comfort 48V DC split air conditioning units
    • Three Cruise N Comfort DT-05-TP digital, wi-fi thermostats for both heating and cooling control in each room
    • One Atkinson Electronics GSCM-mini-d generator auto start/stop module

    Redundant by design

    As previously mentioned, redundancy is critical to the operation of these vehicles. We achieved power system redundancy with the Victron system coupled with a Cummins 12kW on-board diesel generator when solar alone isn’t enough to run the clinic all day. These buses almost never have shore power and will travel for weeks with only solar and occasional use of the generator. And when the generator is used, it only runs long enough to recharge the batteries, greatly reducing the fuel consumption, pollution, and noise. On their other mobile clinics, the clinic staff must run the generator eight to ten hours a day, every day when seeing patients. This is not only costly, but daily use of the generator requires frequent maintenance to the generator, which requires taking the clinic out of the field and seeing patients. Now they only need to take a clinic off the road for maintenance one day every couple of months, instead of every few weeks.

    Redundancy in heating is accomplished with Rixen’s amazing central hydronic system. This provides heat to the two examination rooms, bathroom, and laboratory, hot tap water to four sinks, and in cold weather can pre-heat the diesel engine. Further redundancy is achieved when the diesel engine is running by circulating engine coolant through a coolant loop in the hydronic system. Their older fleet of medical clinics ran on electric baseboard heaters, requiring the generator to run to provide heat.

    Additional benefits

    The Merlin Solar Trailblazer series of panels are the best performing, most reliable, and most efficient flexible solar panels on the market. Unlike every other flexible panel on the market, the Trailblazer panels do not suffer from hot spots due to shading that can damage the roof of the vehicle they are mounted on. All other flexible panels on the market using silicon cells must have a barrier between them and the roof to prevent excessive heat build up. Not so with Merlin Solar panels. Since the panels are only about 3mm thick, passers-by cannot see them on the roof, lending a stealthy appearance, not to mention no additional air drag or noise since they are adhered directly to the roof. And did I mention they don’t require ANY roof penetrations? If you haven’t heard of Merlin Solar, you owe to it yourself to give them a look. OGPS is the Midwest distributor for Merlin Solar.

    Victron Energy products are known for their amazing reliability and endurance. But few people know how amazing their software is, which in our opinion is the secret to their success. Each clinic is equipped with redundant cellular internet providers and a Victron Cerbo GX to monitor the location of the vehicle, solar production, power plant performance, automatically start/stop the generator when necessary, monitor the temperature of every refrigerator, monitor the temperature of each room, and report on the outside temperature. All of this data is logged and sent to the Victron Remote Management (VRM) Portal for monitoring and management from anywhere. The VRM portal is configured to send alerts to the client’s headquarters so they can address any issues, usually before causing any downtime to clinic operations. VRM is an excellent tool to remotely monitor and manage your personal RV, a fleet of vehicles, or even remote off-grid properties.

    The future

    Off-Grid Power Systems is proud to have been chosen to help design such an innovative vehicle. And we have several cutting-edge ideas to make these vehicles perform better and offer even more redundancy. Check this space for future updates.

    If you have a challenging problem to solve and need reliable, efficient power either on-grid or off-grid, the technical team at Off-Grid Power Systems can provide a solution. Give us a call at 740.234.3434 or visit us at https://offgridps.com.