Solar panels to help power Salem VA Medical Center

More than six thousand photovoltaic panels will supply about 10 percent of the medical center's electrical load

POSTED: 05:42 AM EST Dec 24, 2013    UPDATED: 08:55 PM EDT Sep 05, 2013 
Solar panel installation at Salem VA Medical Center
ROANOKE, Va. -

Three thousand down, and three thousand more to go.

Crews are hard at work installing hundreds of photovoltaic panels every day on a six-acre site at the Salem VA Medical Center.

David Beasley is site superintendent for HICAPS, the company based in Greensboro, North Carolina that is managing the project. He says the weather has cooperated and crews are making progress.  "I go up on the bridge and take pictures. One day you'll have 350 panels installed and you'll see it just closing in."

REC Solar, based in San Luis Obispo, California is the primary subcontractor.  Mountain View Solar of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia is installing the panels.

Each panel will produce 270 watts of electrical power. With more than six thousand on site, the solar array will supply about 10 percent of the medical center's annual electrical load.

That will bring the medical center within reach of a federal goal to reduce its energy consumption 30 percent by 2015.

"We are down 20 percent since our baseline," says Energy Engineer Bob Rossbacher, "and we hope this will be a significant part to get us towards our goal of 30 percent less energy."

The cost of the project is just under $5 million. It will take about 25 years to recover the cost, but if electric rates rise, the payback could come more quickly.

Crews hope to have all of the solar panels installed by the end of October.
And the solar array should be contributing power to the medical center grid before the end of the year.