Kaiser Modesto Medical Center in north Modesto will provide badly needed hospital beds to the region, and is designed to save energy and strike a blow against global warming.
A solar system atop the 385,000-square-foot medical office building and hospital support wing, which opened to patients a year ago, already has earned Kaiser Permanente more than $100,000 in energy savings and rebates.
The savings should increase after the hospital opens at the Dale Road campus in October 2008.
"Just as we are committed to the health and safety of our members, we are equally committed to the health and safety of our environment," said Corwin Harper, senior vice president and Central Valley area manager for Kaiser.
In 2001, Kaiser Permanente decided to become a green energy leader. Its Modesto medical center has features such as the solar panels, sensors that turn off lights when people leave examination rooms, and a "living roof" insulating the top of the lobby.
Kaiser's green initiative has generated coverage in the Wall Street Journal and this month earned the non-profit health provider an award from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Green Electronics Council.
The Modesto center got its first rebate check this week from Pacific Gas and Electric Co., though the Modesto Irrigation District supplies its electricity.
Almost 20 Kaiser facilities in Northern and Central California are involved with PG&E energy efficiency programs, including the California Solar Initiative. The Kaiser Modesto center didn't have to be a PG&E electrical customer to earn the incentives, said Nicole Tam, a spokeswoman for PG&E.
Over the past 12 months, Kaiser has been credited with saving 14.5 million kilowatts in Northern and Central California, the equivalent of powering 2,100 homes and taking 1,100 cars off the road. It got rebates totaling $1.6 million and saved $1.7 million on energy, according to PG&E and Kaiser officials.
Doug DiFranco, a Kaiser spokesman in Modesto, said solar panels on the Modesto office building cost $563,000 for materials and installation. They generate 55,000 kilowatts per year.
DiFranco said the panels were not in the original plans. During construction, project director Mike Hrast noticed that something was needed to screen unsightly hardware on top of the building.
The panels were put on the four sides of the roof. The south-facing ones produce three times more energy than the others, DiFranco said.
Some features, such as the living roof, are experimental. The technique has been tried in Northern Europe to better insulate office buildings. It consists of 18 inches of dirt and gravel covered with succulent plants.
Kaiser also uses low-emission fuel in its backup generators and designed its parking lots to direct rain into the groundwater.
The California Solar Initiative programs are open to residential, business and agricultural customers that buy electricity from Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric.
Jess Brown of PG&E said more businesses are taking advantage of the incentives. "There has been resistance because of the expense, but the rebates in the program are closing the gaps," he said.
More information about the California Solar Initiative is available at http://www.pge.com/csi.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2321.