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Cape Cod Healthcare uses sun to save green

August 6, 2015

Cynthia McCormick cmccormick@capecodonline.com | August 5, 2015 | Cape Cod Times

Outside the new emergency room at Cape Cod Hospital. Cape Cod Healthcare, parent company of Cape Cod and Falmouth hospitals, has entered partnerships with several solar energy projects to offset its energy costs. Steve Heaslip/Cape Cod Times

Open around the clock every day of the year, hospitals have some of the highest electrical bills around.

Now organizations such as Cape Cod Healthcare, the parent company of Falmouth and Cape Cod hospitals, are partnering with solar energy developers to slash costs.

For more than a year Cape Cod Healthcare has offset its bill using credits created by Southern Sky Renewable Energy’s Ravensbrook Farms Landfill Solar Facility in North Carver.

Now the health care organization is poised to enter into additional partnerships with solar farms being developed in Dighton, Carver and Acushnet, said Shaun Pandit of Early Bird Power of Milton, which serves as an energy broker for Cape Cod Healthcare and other hospital systems.

The combined electric savings from associations with the different solar projects should come to $500,000 in the form of credits from the utility, Pandit said. Ravenbrook Farms is a 6-megawatt solar array on 16 acres; the solar projects in the other three locations would be about two megawatts each, he said.

The cost of the electricity used by Cape Cod Healthcare’s facilities totals between $5 million and $6 million a year, said Cape Cod Healthcare spokeswoman Robin Lord.

“We are constantly looking for ways to reduce the cost of health care and to save money on utility costs across the CCHC system,” she wrote in an email. “The solar project gives us another way to accomplish this and is especially appealing because it is a green energy source.”

Ravensbrook Farms Landfill Solar Facility isn’t supplying electricity directly to Cape Cod Healthcare, Pandit said. Instead, the solar project allows Cape Cod Healthcare to use net metering credits generated by 20 percent of whatever Ravensbrook sells to Eversource Energy, the company that delivers electricity to the Cape, Martha’s Vineyard and other parts of the state.

Pandit says the savings come to about 3 cents off the current cost of 6.75 cents per kilowatt-hour.

There’s no risk to the hospital system, but “they’re helping to put green energy on the grid,” Pandit said.

The system works to Cape Cod Healthcare’s benefit because the terms of the solar project require that the solar developers be partnered with a larger consumer of energy that would, in utility terms, “offset the load,” he said.

And hospitals are “big energy users,” Pandit said. “They’re using power all day, every day” to power the lights, air conditioning or heating systems and a vast array of medical equipment from MRIs to heart rate monitors, he said.

Hospitals are taking multiple steps to reduce energy costs and reduce their carbon footprints, said Anuj Goel, vice president for legal and regulatory affairs for the Massachusetts Hospital Association.

“These projects include solar, wind and combined heat and power,” Goel wrote in an email. The association’s Healthier Hospitals Initiative is working with groups such as Health Care Without Harm and Massachusetts utilities to track energy use and increase energy efficiencies, according to Goel.

Cape Cod Healthcare’s two hospitals weren’t good candidates for the installation of solar panels onsite because of the high winds that blow off nearby water bodies, plus they don’t have a lot of land available for the panels in their neighborhoods, said Pandit, whose organization procures electricity and gas for the healthcare company at competitive prices.

Partnering with offsite solar projects for utility credits makes fiscal and practical sense, said Pandit, whose company is also working with the Steward Health Care System on a partnership with another solar developer.

Hospital systems “use a lot of energy. They usually have good credit,” Pandit said. He said construction of the three new solar farms being developed in partnership with Cape Cod Healthcare should start in three months.

See the entire article here: http://www.capecodtimes.com/article/20150805/NEWS/150809724