Health care provider Kaiser Permanente said Feb. 18 that it will purchase enough renewable energy to provide half of the electricity it uses in California, a commitment that will support three renewable energy projects.
In 2012, Kaiser Permanente adopted a national sustainable energy policy and launched an ambitious strategy to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020 (compared to 2008 levels). Kaiser Permanente has agreed to support the construction and operation of three new renewable energy projects that will come online in 2016 and generate 590 million kilowatt hours of power a year.
“Climate change isn’t a distant threat,” said Kathy Gerwig, Kaiser Permanente’s environmental stewardship officer. “The health impacts of a changing climate can be felt today in the form of increasing rates of asthma and other respiratory ailments, spread of infectious diseases, heat stress, and injuries from severe weather events. By addressing climate change for the future, we are improving the health of communities today.”
With 38 hospitals, over 600 medical offices, and additional warehouse and administrative space, Kaiser Permanente uses nearly 1.5 billion kilowatt hours of electricity a year, and emits 806,000 metric tons of harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It expects its annual greenhouse gas emissions to decrease to 617,000 metric tons by 2017 as a result of these clean-energy purchases as well as other initiatives to reduce energy consumption and increase the amount of power coming from renewable sources.
Through a 20-year contract with an affiliate of NextEra Energy Resources, the largest generator of wind and solar energy in North America, Kaiser Permanente will purchase the green energy produced from 110 MW at NextEra’ Blythe solar plant in Riverside County, California, as well as the output from 43 MW of wind power from new turbines at the Golden Hills wind farm on the Altamont Pass in Alameda County, California. NextEra plans to replace less-efficient turbines on the wind farm – one of the oldest and largest concentrations of windmills in the U.S. – with more efficient equipment. Construction on both the wind and solar farms is expected to continue over the next two years, with Kaiser Permanente starting to use power from the plants in 2016.
In a separate agreement, Kaiser Permanente agreed to purchase as much as 70 MW of onsite solar from NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG), the nation’s largest independent power producer. Already a top user of onsite solar power, Kaiser Permanente is looking to add rooftop and ground-mounted solar arrays to as many as 170 of its hospitals and other campuses in California. The site-selection process will continue over the next several months, with construction on the first phase of onsite solar systems starting in 2015 and continuing until all systems are up and producing power by the end of 2016. NRG will finance, build, own, and operate the photovoltaic systems, and distribute the power back to Kaiser Permanente at a fixed cost over the course of a 20-year contract.
Kaiser Permanente noted that it received a 2013 Green Power Leadership Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its use of solar power at 11 of its hospitals and other locations. The number of locations using onsite solar power has since grown to include company facilities in Colorado, Hawaii, and Oregon. Kaiser Permanente also purchases wind energy to match 100% of the electricity used at the offices and outpatient facilities it owns in Maryland and the District of Columbia, as well as at its large data center in the region.
Founded in 1945, the company currently serves approximately 9.6 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia.
NRG says this project will expand its solar offerings
NRG Renew LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of NRG Energy, said in its own Feb. 18 announcement that it has entered into an agreement with Kaiser Permanente for this 70 MW of on-site solar.
“This massive project underscores Kaiser Permanente’s leadership position in the healthcare industry, demonstrating the company’s commitment to improving human health by addressing climate change while showcasing NRG Renew’s capabilities to execute large, multifaceted solar projects in partnership with the nation’s leading companies,” said Tom Doyle, President and CEO of NRG Renew. “We are proud to partner with Kaiser Permanente and other forward-thinking companies who are finding unique and successful ways to lead in the race to a clean energy future.”
Solar photovoltaic arrays will be constructed and integrated primarily on carports and parking structures. The planned aggregate coverage area will make the NRG Renew–Kaiser Permanente portfolio one of the world’s largest solar projects built primarily for vehicle parking. Once all projects are complete, Kaiser Permanente’s total installed on-site solar capacity will place it among the top three on-site commercial solar portfolios among all U.S. companies.
Electricity generated by the solar installations will be sold to Kaiser Permanente under a long-term power purchase agreement, offsetting each facility’s use of grid power and increasing the total use of clean, emission-free electricity. The combined installations are expected to offset 6 percent to 8 percent of Kaiser Permanente’s load throughout the state.
Renewable initiatives like the NRG Renew–Kaiser Permanente project, which generate their own on-site clean energy, will also help contribute to California’s recently announced goal of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.
In the past 12 months, NRG Energy and NRG Renew announced partnerships with several leading companies, such as Unilever, to develop clean energy solutions. In addition, the company has solar projects that are recently completed or under construction at MGM Resorts International, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Levi’s Stadium and the American Airlines Arena home of the Miami HEAT, along with community solar projects in California, Colorado and Vermont.
NRG Renew owns or has partial investment in more than 150 renewable energy projects totaling approximately 4,500 gross MW (ac) of solar and wind capacity in operation throughout North America.