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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Solar for Better Health Systems

Cedar Hill’s solar field was installed by Norwich Solar Technologies in November 2018. Courtesy photo.

George Harvey

Norwich Solar Technologies (NST) recently built three projects that are interestingly related. All three involve health care providers that chose NST to install new solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.

Solar system at Washington County Mental Health Services. Image: Image: Norwich Solat Technoloties.

Washington County Mental Health Services

Washington County Mental Health Services (WCMHS) added a solar PV array to the roofs of its headquarters in Barre, Vermont and the RSD Transportation in White River Junction, Vermont. WCMHS, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, was very interested in saving money on its large electric utility bills.

NST offers its customers a Solar Services Agreement (SSA) that incorporates what it calls a “Triple Bottom Line,” the three parts being financial performance, social impact, and environmental responsibility. An SSA is a financial mechanism that allows a solar purchaser to obtain many of the benefits of solar photovoltaic (PV) power without buying a PV system. In a SSA, a solar purchaser buys power from a project developer at a predetermined rate for a specified length of time without responsibility for system ownership, operation, and maintenance. The fact that this can be done without requiring a customer to bear the capital expenses can be especially important for non-profit organizations.

For WCMHS, entering into the SSA is to result in substantial savings. The company said the reduced cost for electricity makes it possible to provide increased healthcare to Vermonters.

For its part, NST attended to all the details needed to provide WCMHS with the PV system. NST took care of system design and specifications, permitting, and construction. With the system complete, NST continues to provide maintenance for the 25-year life of the contract.

WCMHS will save over $10,000 in the first year of the contract, with the savings increasing as utility rates rise. Because it is running as a non-profit, the savings can go directly into keeping the 800-person WCMHS workforce strong, benefitting the 8,000 people it serves. Also, costs are predictable for the period of the contract, which makes planning easier.

The WCMHS rooftop systems have a capacity of 450 kilowatts (kW) DC. It will save the Earth the burden of 12 million pounds of CO₂ emissions, which is equivalent to planting 130,000 trees.

Mt. Ascutney Hospital array. Image: Norwich Solar Technoloties.

Mt. Ascutney Hospital

Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center (MAHHC) in Windsor, Vermont, is also committed to more than just good health for its patients. It is also committed to healthy social and natural environments. It is Energy Star rated, and already has two solar systems. Nevertheless, wishing to reduce its carbon footprint further, its leadership decided in 2017 to build a third PV system.

MAHHC contracted with NST for a system with 2,000 panels, with a total capacity rating of 745kW

(DC). It is expected to offset 20 million pounds of CO₂ over the course of its 25-year warranted lifetime, all the while providing low-cost electricity. After that, it will most likely just keep on making electricity, saving the hospital money and the environmental load of CO₂.

NST found a good site for a solar array of this size near the intersection of Routes 4 and 12 in Hartland, Vermont. The location benefits from proximity to a highway and power lines. It is on a rolling hillside that had been recently timbered and would be difficult to use for commercial or residential development. The slope of the land was acceptable for a solar system. Existing vegetation allows only a fleeting view of it for people passing by on Rt 4.

Construction of the Mt. Ascutney Hospital’s solar array started in November 2018. As this is being written, it is complete and generating power, with some landscaping remaining to be done.

According to town manager David Ormiston, Hartland has designated a number of sites along Route 4 as approved for solar development. Having gone through that work, Hartland stands ready to do its part to achieve Vermont’s energy and climate goals.

Paul Calandrella, Chief Operating Officer of Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center, pointed out that with NST’s SSA, the array benefits all parties. The hospital saves money, utility ratepayers save money, and the environment benefits. He said, “There really is no downside.”

Cedar Hill’s original hot water array on “Teddy’s Place” has been providing hot water since 2007. Image: Melissa Snyder.

Cedar Hill

Cedar Hill Continuing Care Community, which includes both Cedar Hill Health Care Center and The Village at Cedar Hill, is a family-owned facility. According to co-owner and Community Executive Director Patricia Horn, Cedar Hill had started investing years ago in renewables, including a solar hot water system. They bought hybrid and electric cars, and they composted food scraps, but they had considered solar PV too expensive until recently. With costs declining rapidly and tax credits still available, they started looking into what they could do for electric power.

Cedar Hill’s owners and their families financed the project themselves through the Vermont Economic Development Authority and VSECU, so it would not impact the company’s capital budget. For system design and construction, they went to Norwich Solar Technologies, which advised and guided them through the project from start to finish.

Cedar Hill provides skilled nursing, rehabilitation, assisted living, and memory care. It has over 100 residents and more than 125 employees. They use a lot of electricity, and Cedar Hill had typically paid for over 750,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year. NST installed a 501kW (DC) system, which will offset about 82% of Cedar Hill’s electricity needs.

The solar array will offset approximately 13 million pounds of CO₂. This is equivalent to planting about 153,000 trees.

Please Note: We at Green Energy Times realize that when renewable systems go online in Vermont, they replace grid electricity that is already about 90% carbon-free. Nevertheless, the grid is a network that goes beyond state borders. When grid demand is reduced, the plants that produce less power are those that are most expensive, and today, they happen to be powered by coal and nuclear.

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