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Hospitals revisit energy-efficiency opportunities

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Utility companies and energy industry experts are working with hospitals to find out if solar energy fits the bill as hospitals search for the best ways to reduce spending.

On Friday, the New Jersey Hospital Association’s Health Research and Education Trust hosted a seminar with solar industry veterans, focusing on how to decrease energy bills through the use of solar installations.

The seminar featured Mark Crowdis, president of Reznick Think Energy LLC; David Khasidy, founder of SunRay Power LLC; and Kevin J. Moore, chair of the renewable energy practice at Sills, Cummis & Gross P.C.

Topics ranged from how to finance solar projects, how implementing renewable energy would affect hospital’s bottom lines and even how solar energy works.

Moore said finding the right developer for the project was of the highest importance for hospitals looking to add solar. As most of New Jersey’s hospitals are nonprofit, they often are better off entering into a power-purchasing agreement, in which the developer owns the array and sells the power back to the hospital at a reduced rate. Solar incentives, which Moore said are needed to make solar work, usually are in the form of tax credits or commodity trading, of which hospitals do neither.

The seminar comes shortly after a popular PSE&G loan program started its second round of funding for hospitals to improve energy efficiency without investing capital.

The Hospital Efficiency Program enrolled 19 hospitals in its first wave, updating chillers and adding energy-efficient installations — like solar panels — without any up-front capital investment from the hospitals.

St. Peter’s Hospital, in New Brunswick, participated in the first round of the program, and added 10,000 solar panels and a more efficient air conditioning system, with expected energy savings of $10 million over 20 years.

PSE&G issued $79 million in loans for energy-efficiency projects at hospitals during the first round; a second round of $50 million was approved by the Board of Public Utilities in July 2011. Spokesman Fran Sullivan said PSE&G is currently looking into between 20 and 24 candidates for the funding.

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