Kaiser Permanente Launches 15 MW Solar Initiative

OAKLAND, CA — Kaiser Permanente will install solar power systems totaling 15 megawatts at California facilities in the first wave of renewable energy projects planned by the largest managed care organization in the U.S.

Starting in April at a receiving warehouse in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Livermore, Kaiser Permanente will roll through a series of installations that are expected to bring solar power systems to 15 medical centers and other facilities in California by the end of summer 2011.

Kaiser Permanente announced its plans this morning. In interviews yesterday, sustainability and green building leaders of the organization provided details about the first stage of KP's broad renewable energy initiative.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," said John Kouletsis, director of strategy, planning and design for Kaiser Permanente’s National Facilities Services group.

When they are complete, the 15 installations are expected to provide 10 percent of the power used at the Kaiser Permanente sites that host them and prevent the equivalent of 15,890 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually.

Kaiser Permanente's plunge into solar power follows an initial venture at its nearly 2-year-old Modesto Medical Center, which was designed as a high-performance energy efficient campus and included a 50-kilowatt solar energy system (pictured right) among its environmentally friendly attributes.

As planned, the installations also represent one of the larger solar power projects -- and possibly the largest thus far, Kaiser Permanente believes -- within the healthcare industry.

The organization has been a leader of an industry effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by curbing energy consumption; increasing efficiency of facilities, equipment and business operations; finding substitutes for toxic chemicals in products; cutting waste; and providing food choices that are better for patients and employees as well as the environment. Kaiser Permanente also helped develop standards for greening healthcare. (For a closer look at the efforts by Kaiser Permanente and others in healthcare, see Thera N. Kalmijn's article for GreenBiz.com and GreenerBuildings.com.)

"This is about health," said Kaiser Permanente's Environmental Stewardship Officer Kathy Gerwig, who is also vice president for workplace safety. "We're doing this because we see a direct connection between reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving public health."

Kaiser Permanente's sustainability efforts are core to its goals of providing affordable healthcare and enhancing the communities inside and outside their hospital walls, she said.