Solar For Hospitals: Here’s What to Consider
The Energy Collective, August 26, 2017
A hospital is not just a place for healing; it’s a place of discovery. It is not only a place to diagnose, but also to develop. It represents the community it serves and contributes to its health and prosperity. And as the second most-intensive users of energy around the country, it seems logical that hospitals would look to employ renewable energy to curb their emissions that affect the quality of air, and thus health, in their communities.
Some hospitals have already embraced renewables. In 2011, Kaiser Permanente displayed leadership and a regard for community health by energizing 15MW of solar energy systems across fifteen of its California locations. The onsite systems will diversify each site’s energy portfolio, as well as help to improve air quality and overall public wellness.
This community stewardship has not been limited to sunny California. In 2014, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Partners HealthCare began purchasing a substantial portion of its energy from renewable energy source.
In Modern HealthCare magazine, John Messervy, Director of Capital and Facility Planning at Partners said, “Our responsibility as a healthcare provider is not just about taking care of people when they are ill, […] It’s really looking at the health and wellness of the community as a whole, and how we contribute to that.” For Partners, the purchase of renewables aligned directly with the values of the organization and allowed for them to save on their unit cost of power.
However, aside from a few pioneers, many hospitals have taken the cautious approach when dealing with renewables. A chief concern for this stems from the highly-regulated flow of operations that onsite construction could potentially disrupt. Coupled with a high demand for 24/7 energy that requires a reliable, efficient, and cost effective source of power, creating a complex and intentional energy-purchasing strategy, implementing energy changes is a complex process.
Want to go solar but not sure how? Here are a few things hospitals should consider when contemplating renewables.
- What is the purpose of the solar array? Is it to diversify a portfolio, “go green”, generate energy savings, earn incentives, or aid community/education? Knowing why solar is the right choice is integral to the success of a system, as it dictates the project details and helps to establish a realistic timeline.
- Would a rooftop, carport, or ground mount installation be the best? An onsite rooftop installment is not the only option. Depending on the project specifics an offsite array or a community solar subscription could be a solid and cost effective substitution, which would allow the hospital to power itself with clean, solar electrons from an array away from its facility. Both options can allow for hospitals to access clean energy without having to house an array directly on their property.
- What backup generation is onsite and is it contributing to any current demand response activity?
- What other energy-related projects, like LED lighting, are planned or have occurred?
- What’s the 20-year plan for the facility? Solar is a reliable and proven technology that will produce a guaranteed amount of energy over the long term, providing a hedge of energy expenditures. With this long-term benefit, comes a long term commitment that is best made when all the influential factors are considered.
The benefits of clean, renewable power and a diverse energy portfolio teamed with energy savings and environmental stewardship significantly outweigh the potential challenges. Though still, it is important for hospitals to work closely with a trusted partner to discuss their site’s unique needs and how to work through them. The Sol Systems team has experience developing solar for hospitals, and provides flexibility to work with any schedule. For hospitals looking to go solar, contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.