Kaiser Permanente to inject solar power into its daily rounds

One of the largest not-for-profit healthcare providers in the U.S., Kaiser Permanente has announced it is to make a series of major wind and solar energy purchases as it seeks to lower its nationwide greenhouse gas emissions by 30%.

In two separate announcements, the healthcare leader revealed plans to generate as much as half of the electricity it uses in California from clean energy sources, and also confirmed it will purchase as much as 70 MW of onsite solar production from independent power producer NRG Renew.

The former announcement entails a series of power purchase agreements (PPAs) by Kaiser Permanente to support the construction and operation of three renewable energy projects that will generate 590 million kWh of clean power a year.

Scheduled to come online in 2016, the PPAs will be signed as 20-year contracts with NextEra Energy Resources, one of which will see Kaiser Permanente purchase solar power from NextEra’s 110 MW Blythe Solar Energy Plant in Riverside County, California.

Kaiser Permanente will also purchase energy generated from NextEra’s 43 MW Golden Hills wind farm in Alameda County.

Solar deal with NRG Renew

The solar arrangement with NRG Renew could amount to the addition of 70 MW of solar PV generation capacity onsite at many of Kaiser Permanente’s hospitals and campuses in California, with 170 sites earmarked for some sort of rooftop or ground-mounted array.

The site-selection process is already underway, with construction on the first phase of onsite PV systems due to begin in the first quarter of this year, running right up until the end of 2016.

NRG will finance, build, own and operate the solar systems, distributing the solar power back to Kaiser Permanente over the 20-year term of the contract.

NRG Renew has confirmed that the majority of systems will be installed atop carports and parking structures on Kaiser Permanente grounds. Combined, the installations are forecast to offset 6%-8% of Kasier Permanente’s load across California, and once complete will represent the third-largest commercial solar portfolio nationwide.

"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 NRG Renew president and CEO, Tom Doyle.

Kaiser’s green leadership goals

Having received an award in 2013 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its use of solar power at 11 of its hospitals, Kaiser Permanente intends to dramatically expand its investment in renewable energy.

The company uses 1.5 billion kWh of electricity each year, emitting 806,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. A 30% reduction would see emissions fall to just 617,000 metric tons by 2017, generating enough clean energy to power more than 82,000 U.S. households annually.

"Climate change isn’t a distant threat," said Kaiser Permanente’s environmental stewardship officer Kathy Gerwig. “The health impacts of a changing climate can be felt today in the form of increasing rates of asthma and other respiratory ailments.

"By addressing climate change for the future, we are improving the health of communities today."