Kaiser Permanente has agreed to deploy 15 megawatts of solar power in a deal that will put solar power systems at 15 facilities across the state by the summer of 2011.
The agreement with San Francisco-based Recurrent Energy, an independent power producer and a developer of solar power projects, launches one of the largest sustainable energy programs in U.S. health care.
The 16 solar power systems will be implemented across the 15 hospitals, medical offices and other buildings through rooftop solar, ground mount solar, and elevated solar above existing ground-level parking spaces and garages. Several projects are underway.
The design, construction and installation will be handled by San Francisco-based Swinerton Builders and HMH Builders Inc. of Sacramento and approximately 180 union and green jobs will be generated by the construction of these projects in total, according to Recurrent Energy spokeswoman Cate Powers.
“What’s good for the environment is good for our health,” says Raymond J. Baxter, PhD, senior vice president, Community Benefit, Research and Health Policy at Kaiser Permanente. “By expanding the use of solar power, Kaiser Permanente is demonstrating its commitment to greening its energy portfolio and reducing its carbon footprint. Harnessing renewable energy to power the care we provide reflects our dedication to improving the health of our members and the communities we serve.”
Kaiser Permanente’s investment in solar power will both reduce the organization’s reliance on the public power grid and help it diversify its power sources, the firm says. The 15 MW of solar power will provide part of the electricity needed to run the buildings at the sites, which include Vallejo and Santa Clara medical centers in Northern California, and Fontana and San Diego medical centers in Southern California.
The solar power systems will produce an average of 10% of the power Kaiser Permanente uses at these sites upon completion, equivalent to electricity used by about 1,900 homes a year.
Kaiser Permanente agreed to purchase the solar power through power purchase agreements with Recurrent Energy, which will own and operate all of the solar power systems. Citigroup, an equity investor on a portion of the projects, was a key partner in structuring the agreements between Kaiser Permanente and Recurrent Energy. These agreements allow the not-for-profit health plan and hospital system to partner with a private entity that is eligible for a 30% tax credit available to private companies such as Recurrent Energy. Kaiser Permanente also will retain all the Renewable Energy Credits awarded for these solar projects.
“With a massive need for clean energy generation located close to where power is actually used, customers like Kaiser Permanente are playing a key role to make the vision of distributed-scale solar a reality,” says Arno Harris, CEO of Recurrent Energy. “These solar power systems reaffirm the demand for distributed-scale projects, which can be aggregated together to generate a significant amount of power.”
This move is the latest in Kaiser Permanente’s long history of energy conservation and environmental stewardship. Sustainable design and construction practices, including the use of energy-saving infrastructure and non-toxic materials, are allowing Kaiser Permanente to build green and stay on budget.
“These solar agreements are a major step toward the goal of including a wide array of renewable sources in our energy portfolio,” says John Kouletsis, director of Strategy, Planning and Design for Kaiser Permanente’s National Facilities Services group. In the future, energy sources could include thermal energy, wind, and fuel cells in addition to solar.
As the result of green building efforts, Kaiser Permanente:
- Saves more than $10 million per year through energy conservation strategies. A leader in environmental health care and construction, Kaiser Permanente has committed to drastically reducing its use of fossil fuels and slowing energy growth over the next 10 years.
- Will use sustainable design and construction practices to complete roughly 6.7 million sq ft of new construction in the next seven years.
- Eliminated the purchase and disposal of 40 tons of harmful chemicals.
Before these agreements, Kaiser Permanente started using solar power when it opened one of the country’s “greenest” hospitals in Modesto in 2008. That hospital’s solar panel array generates enough electricity to power 25 homes.