Image Source: Wikimedia Commons. By: Coolcaesar.

US residents have been rather upset about the new health reform lately and understandably so. However, there is at least one positive piece of health related news to report: The largest nonprofit HMO in the US is going solar.

Kaiser Permanente is based in Oakland, California, and has nearly 200,000 employees and physicians, plus over 400 offices and medical centers.  The solar panels will be installed on 15 of their hospitals, offices and other facilities throughout California by 2011. They will be installed by San Francisco based solar power company, Recurrent Energy.

This isn’t the first solar power installation for Kaiser, however. In 2008, solar panels were installed at their Modesto Medical Center. Since that project proved to be a success, they moved to install solar panels on more of their facilities. Kaiser’s director for strategy, planning and design, John Kouletsis, said:

“We’re very confident that this is the right thing to do. This is the first wave of our sustained engagement with renewable sources.”

Although the solar power systems will be part of the Kaiser buildings, Recurrent Energy will still own and operate them. The power will be sold to Kaiser through 20-year purchase agreements. Kaiser expects the payment to be at least $95 million—about the same amount it would cost to get power from the grid. Despite the cost, there is more good news about the solar installation.

By having these solar panels installed, Kaiser will come closer to reaching its self-imposed goal of using 25% of its power from renewable sources by 2020. This installation alone actually represents 15 megawatts of energy—that’s 10% of the power used at those particular sites. Kaiser also believes it may be the biggest solar power installation at any health care system in the country.

It’s certainly great to see more people making the switch to renewable energy, especially important places like medical centers.

By Heidi Marshall