The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Danville News

May 15, 2014

Geisinger solar panels could power 12 houses

DANVILLE — A new 160-panel solar array installed this fall will provide 12 houses worth of electrical power to the Janet Weis Children’s Hospital.

The array, which will provide 38-kilowatts of solar energy, is being funded with a $100,000 competitive grant, according to Al Neuner, vice president of facility operation for Geisinger Medical Center.

The grant was awarded by the sustainable energy fund of West Penn Power, which services the western part of the state. Though Geisinger Medical Center is outside of their service area, Janet Weis Children’s Hospital treats about 17,000 kids from West Penn Power’s region, Neuner said.

The total cost of the project is $150,000.

The panels will be installed on the roof of the hospital and each will be about three feet by five feet. “They’ll cover the majority of the roof,” Neuner said.

Geisinger will start on the project in July or August by repairing the hospital’s 20 year-old roof. Once that’s complete, they will start installing panels, which shouldn’t take longer than three weeks, Neuner said.

While the cost-savings on the solar panels aren’t huge, only totaling about $6,000 to $7,000 a year, the main draw for Geisinger is that it provides a source of environmentally-friendly energy.

“Beyond the efficiency aspect of solar energy, this new system is completely non-polluting energy, furthering our mission to reduce our facilities’ carbon footprint,” Neuner said.

“This project also says a lot about of our commitment to our kids, which is why we’re doing this on the children’s hospital,” he continued. “It makes all the sense in the world that we’d make that kind of commitment.”

Neuner speculated that placing the solar panels on the roof might result in further cost reductions, such as lower air-conditioning costs from shading the building’s air conditioner units and lengthening the life of the roof.

Part of the grant money will also go toward educational material on solar energy. In the lobby of the Janet Weis Children’s Hospital will be an interactive display teaching people how the electricity is generated from solar power, Neuner said. Geisinger would also like to have that material available via its computer network so children can access it from computers in their hospital rooms.

Email comments to rstoneback@thedanvillenews.com.

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