Sutter Health solar project at Santa Rosa hospital can power over 200 homes a year
Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital on Monday will formally 'flip the switch' on its new carport solar panels that have been installed over its main parking lot and on the rooftop of Shea House, which houses families of hospitalized children.
The 4,627 solar modules covering approximately 565 parking spaces will support 40% of the main hospital's electricity, according to Shaun Ralston, regional manager at Sutter Health.
The new carport solar panels are expected to generate 2.4 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy annually, which would be equivalent to powering 206 homes in one year, according to Sutter.
Shea House, which was rebuilt after being destroyed in the October 2017 wildfires, had 10 solar panels installed on its rooftop, supporting 89% of needed electricity on the site, Ralston said.
'Sutter started looking at these solar projects in (early) 2017,' Ralston said. 'We were planning this before the fires … but now we really don't want to be dependent on the grid.'
Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital already generates 45% of its electric power with fuel-cell technology. By adding the solar panels, the hospital is now generating 85% of its power on-site, purchasing the rest from PG&E, Ralston said.
'The most important and impactful part is that we are generating the power in an environmentally friendly fashion,' Ralston said. 'It's not so much the money we'll save because the cost savings isn't substantial. Once again, if the power is cut off in a disaster, we're not cut off.'
The hospital — which has an existing companywide sustainability initiative and environmental stewardship program — was one of six in Sutter Health's 24-hospital system chosen for this solar energy pilot project, Ralston said.
The others are Sutter Medical Foundation in Fairfield; Sutter Lakeside Hospital in Lakeport; Sutter Amador Hospital in Jackson; Palo Alto Medical Foundation in Fremont; and Sutter Medical Foundation and Sutter Surgical Hospital North Valley in Yuba City.
Ralston said Sutter chose three solar developers to participate in the pilot program so it could assess which vendor works best in areas that include causing the least amount of disruption in a critical environment such as a hospital.
The three solar vendors are Engie, SunPower and Ameresco, the latter of which was commissioned for both the Santa Rosa and Fairfield hospitals.
'We have a longstanding relationship with Sutter regarding energy management (and) data solutions,' said Hans Meyer, director of Ameresco's Renewable Energy Group, located in Phoenix.
'Sutter-wide, they looked at where they could make the biggest impact to implementing solar projects in a pilot phase,' Meyer said, adding one of the first sites Sutter chose was Santa Rosa Regional Hospital.
'A common theme across our customer base is resiliency,' Meyer said. 'The (Santa Rosa) facility was so severely impacted (from the fires). The whole idea was to build resiliency into what they're doing so they can not only have a good environmental impact, but also be able to be there when they're needed the most.'
Staff Writer Cheryl Sarfaty covers tourism, hospitality, health care and education. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 707-521-4259.