The United States Department of Veteran’s Affairs has embarked on an energy program targeting its medical facilities. Currently, the department operates more than 1,400 sites of health care for veterans, including hospitals, surgery centers, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, and other facilities. It serves more than 5.5 million people.
Medical services to veterans are part of the department’s $125 billion budget. However, with the United States in a severe economic climate, the need to save money extends to the federal government.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has launched a number of “green management programs” to do just that.
“As the VA transforms into a 21st century organization, VA facilities nationwide are reducing energy consumption and using more renewable energy sources,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.
The department is investing funds – nearly $400 million U.S. -- from its American Recovery and Reinvestment Act appropriations in various energy initiatives. This includes more than $197 million for energy efficiency through maintenance and repair projects at medical centers and nearly $200 million more for renewable energy projects including wind turbines and geothermal and solar photovoltaic projects.
The variety of approaches reveals the department’s willingness to invest in a variety of projects that might enhance energy efficiency.
A sampling of the projects include:
The department invested $7.8 million to upgrade a solar photovoltaic system at the Southern Arizona Healthcare System. The medical center is in the process of installing a 2.9 megawatt solar system and the additional investment will allow them to install an additional 1.4 megawatts. When complete, the 4.3 megawatts are expected to produce 28 percent of the facility’s annual electricity needs.
In April, the department awarded three contracts, totaling $13.5 million, for geothermal energy systems at medical facilities in California, Michigan, Nevada, and Indiana. The contractors will install ground-source heat pumps and supply hot and cold water, replacing aging and inefficient cooling systems at six Veterans Affairs Medical Centers. These projects are scheduled to be completed in June, 2012.
The department awarded nearly $1 million to three Veteran-owned small businesses for construction of alternative fueling stations in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Washington State. Each of the small businesses is owned by veterans wounded in the line of service. The fueling stations, which are to be completed by the summer of 2012, will provide alternative fuels to the VA’s fleet of alternative fuel vehicles. This will reduce carbon emissions and increase fuel efficiency.
In December, the VA awarded more than a half-million dollar contracts for wind turbine projects at New York and Utah medical centers. At New York’s Manhattan Campus of the NY Harbor VA Healthcare System, a 20 kilowatt turbine is being built. At the same time, the Salt Lake City VA Healthcare System in Utah is having a 10 kW wind turbine system built. The installations should be complete by the end of 2011 and will increase renewable energy consumption.
A $4.9 million contract was awarded in 2010 to create a renewably fueled cogeneration energy system at the Alvin C. York VA Medical Center in Murfreesboro, TN. The system will provide electricity, steam, and chilled water to the hospital, and will be powered using biogas from a local landfill. The 1.5 megawatt cogeneration system is expected to be completed this summer and will produce up to 61 percent of the facilities annual electricity usage.
The department launched dozens of programs by the end of 2010, including 21 solar energy projects, two wind turbines, 14 geothermal systems, and six co-generation units. It also converted 40 percent of its automotive fleet to alternative fuel vehicles that can run on an ethanol blend and biodiesel.
The department is also in the process of installing meters at all its facilities so it may monitor use of water, chilled water, steam, and natural gas, as well as electricity, to assist facility energy managers track and analyze energy use.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Individual medical centers have also launched their own “green programs” that include recycling old computers by giving them to local schools, donating food that would have normally been thrown away to local homeless shelters, and encouraging employees to ride their bicycles to work.
“Reducing our operational costs through sustainable practices means increasing our ability to serve veterans,” said Jim Sullivan, director of VA’s Office of Asset Enterprise Management.
Overall, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is seeking to increase renewable energy consumption to 15 percent of total electricity used by the end of 2013. The organization also has a goal of reducing greenhouse emissions by 30 percent by 2020.
“With these investments in clean energy and other renewable energy projects for our medical centers, clinics, and cemeteries, we are marching forward with the President’s initiative to ‘green’ the Federal government,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said. “The benefits are significant, from our reduced utility bills to the quality of the air we breathe. This initiative is good for Veterans and good for our environment.”Log in to post comments