From the perspective of an energy infrastructure developer, every open space under the sun has the potential to generate solar energy. Noel Lafayette, policy advocate and executive at Pixel Health, recently shared his thoughts on how healthcare facilities can take advantage of solar in their parking lots—and how to fund these investments to be cash flow positive.
1. Generating solar energy with existing structures
“After sixteen years of building solar energy programs, I’m always recognizing opportunities for solar installations,” said Noel. “I was recently visiting a family member in the hospital where I saw three large parking lots alongside a four-story parking garage with an open roof. I immediately thought of solar energy solutions for the space.”
As solar energy represents an easy way to generate onsite power in a cost-effective manner, Noel believes healthcare can take advantage of their existing facilities to generate onsite energy.
“In my experience, installing solar often results in less expensive power than from the grid,” he explained.
2. Addressing the carbon footprint of healthcare
Beyond maximizing the use of the facility itself, solar energy can also help the industry address its unhealthy problem with healthcare energy consumption.
“Healthcare is waking up to the reality that they are, unfortunately, large polluters,” said Noel. “Many are trying to address the problem, with scattered results, as they do not know where to begin or execute their sustainability plans.”
3. Managing and controlling energy costs
Noel believes that most hospital CFOs are concerned about energy use, resiliency, price volatility and peak demand changes.
“Solar energy is a great way to lower a facility’s carbon footprint and help control the long-term costs of powering the facility,” he said.
4. Providing additional benefits to staff and patients
Solar carports, often called solar canopies, provide several other advantages beyond generating clean, renewable power. The elevated structures feature esthetically pleasing and functional designs that can be cantilevered to ensure ongoing maintenance of the parking lot is not restricted. And, to address the growing ownership of electric vehicles, solar carports can also include EV charging stations.
Staff, visitors, and patients may also appreciate that coverage provided from solar carports, which can provide shade in the summer and shelter from the rain or snow in the winter. Current and future hospital staff as well as local leaders may also feel invested in efforts to care for the environment. As highly conspicuous structures, solar carports can visually signal an organization’s efforts to be part of the solution to improve energy use in the community.
5. Funding solar energy projects
“With the regulations in the Inflation Reduction Act and options for 100% financing, solar energy investments can be cash flow positive from the start,” said Noel. “Our team at Pixel Health can help hospitals and healthcare facilities avoid large upfront capital expenditures, support key economic decisions to fully leverage their investments, and find the right solutions to advance their clean energy journey.”