Every morning, the rising sun shines directly on the roof of Providence Centralia Hospital’s C building, one of its oldest structures.
Right now, nothing is capturing that energy, but starting in January, about 340 solar panels will collect at least 100 kilowatts of power, offsetting about $10,000 a year in energy costs for the hospital, said Keith Edgerton, interim facilities manager and sustainability coordinator.
“It blows my mind that it’s only 2 percent of our energy consumption at the hospital,” Edgerton said.
The expected 25-year return is $442,391.
Aside from the savings and the benefits to the environment, the size of the project also gives Providence Centralia bragging rights over its larger rivals, including Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
“Then we’ll be the largest solar array on a hospital in Washington,” Edgerton said.
The TransAlta Centralia Coal Transition Grants Energy Board announced the $238,036 grant to the Providence Health Care Foundation on Aug. 27. The grant will fund the purchase and installation of about 100 solar panels expected to produce more than 94,000 kilowatt hours of clean energy per year.
According to a news release from the Coal Transition Grants board, that is projected to lead to a reduction of 38,316 metric tons of greenhouse carbon dioxide emissions in the next 25 years.
“The Centralia Coal Transition Board is proud to have the opportunity to bring an alternative energy project to Providence Centralia Hospital, our largest employer in Lewis County,” said Matt Matayoshi, a board member, in a news release. “We look forward to seeing the commencement and completion of the project and learning about the positive impacts not only for the hospital, but for patients.”
The project comes at a perfect time for the hospital, which already badly needed a new roof, said Chris Thomas, communication senior manager for Providence Health & Services, Southwest Washington.
“The roof was end of life, way past end of life,” Edgerton said.
Crews are working to replace the roof now, and the solar array is scheduled to be installed in January on the hospital’s C-building, one of the oldest parts of the hospital.
The about 2-foot by 4-foot panels will cover about 75 percent of C-building’s roof. The building was chosen partly because it gets full sun, and partly because it was built to accommodate a second floor, though none was ever built. That means the building can structurally take the extra weight from the solar panels with retrofitting.
Power collected by the panels will flow directly into a grid in the hospital to power its buildings, Edgerton explained.
Providence reinvests savings gained by sustainability projects into future projects Edgerton said. Down the road, it’s a possibility that the hospital could also install a solar thermal system to power water boilers.
“We have natural gas boilers that heat up water now — this would do that,” he said.
The Coal Transition Grants Energy Board was formed as a result of the 2011 agreement between TransAlta and the state of Washington to phase out coal-fired plant operations with one unit shutting down in December 2020 and the second unit shutting down in December 2025. The company is investing $55 million into Lewis and South Thurston counties through the coal transition boards.
“We are tremendously grateful for the investment from TransAlta and this grant,” said Dr. Kevin Caserta, site administrator for Providence Centralia Hospital and a foundation board member, in a news release. “This project helps us continue to move toward our vision of health for a better world, which includes overall environmental stewardship.”
Providence has for years won national awards for its commitment to sustainability and the environment, most recently the Practice Greanhealth Partner for Change award and an excellence award for making its operating room green.
“Healthcare should actually be at the forefront of sustainability because we are about health,” Edgerton said, adding that Providence has increased its commitment to sustainability in recent years.
“They really understand that the health of the community is directly tied to the health of our plant,” he said.
For more information on the Centralia Coal Transition Funding Boards visit: http://cctgrants.com