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Juan Luis Hospital Installing Solar Electric System to Cut Power Costs

Jan. 15, 2009 — With help from the V.I. Energy Office and Gov. John deJongh Jr., the Juan F. Luis Hospital is installing a 30 kW photovoltaic electrical system this year, a move expected to save the hospital, government and taxpayers many thousands of dollars in electric bills every year.
During a short ceremony in the new Bennie and Martha Benjamin Conference Center in Juan Luis' cardiac care center Thursday, Energy Office Director Bevan R. Smith Jr. hospital Chief Executive Officer Gregory Calliste and deJongh spoke a little about the program and about efforts to reduce government energy demand. Afterwards, deJongh and Smith presented Calliste a giant check for $200,000, symbolizing the Energy Office grant to the hospital.
"There are two things everyone must do," deJongh said. "Take care of your health and pay your electric bill. While working on what can we do to assist the hospital, we thought if we couldn't direct more grant money to directly pay the utility bills, we could find funds to help reduce demand."
And the solar panels will reduce the hospitals bills.
"When in place, this will cut 50 percent off of daytime lighting of this facility," Smith said during his remarks. "Because of the challenges they have with a mandate to serve the people regardless of resources but also an obligation to pay their utility bills, we thought this project would serve Juan Luis and the community at large."
The Energy Office has funded a number of small photovoltaic electrical projects but this is by far the largest to date, he said. The total energy office grant is worth about $400,000 and includes 500 solar panels. The panels are guaranteed for 30 years and the electrical components have a lifetime of about ten years. Plans are to devote the resources to solar panels, without a battery backup, so it will provide power only when the sun is shining- which are the peak demand hours.
Calliste said the solar energy facility will help the hospital's finance on an ongoing basis.
"It's no secret Juan F. Luis Hospital is a big consumer of electricity and has been overdue to (V.I. Water and Power Authority)," he said. "The building is 210,000 square feet. It must be lit up throughout 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Thousands of people come in and out every day … For many reasons, to prevent infection, moisture control patient comfort the hospital has to have controlled temperatures. So Juan F. Luis has no choice but to use a lot of electricity while caring for its patients."
The solar panels are one of several avenues the hospital is taking to reduce utility bills, he said.
This solar project is one of several efforts to reduce utility bills and consumption at the hospital. The Energy Office is working with Juan Luis to make the hospital a leader in its Government Energy Reduction Program, Smith said. The program aims to reduce government consumption by 20 percent, by gathering data on energy usage and working systematically to make government buildings more efficient. Facility managers have pushed, successfully, to begin replacing the hospital's many electrical motors with more energy and cost efficient ones, and replace all lights with super efficient light emitting diode technology and compact fluorescent bulbs, Smith said. Combined, these two measures will save nearly as much on utility bills as the photovoltaic project, according to the numbers Smith provided.
“This gift signifies the tremendous importance and high priority that my administration places in seeking creative avenues to highlight our collective actions as one government in decreasing overall energy costs in the territory through the use of clean energy," deJongh said. "This endeavor is the first project of its kind in the territory and signals the vision of the Government Demand Reduction Program in seeking workable solutions to reduce overall operating costs for government facilities. In continuance of our goal to reduce government utility consumption 20 percent by 2012, I am pleased to extend this gift in cooperation with the VI Energy Office of $200,000 in grant money and $200,000 in photovoltaic (solar) panels.” After the hospital, the program will begin looking to the territory's 38 public schools for opportunities for energy savings and solar energy projects, deJongh said.
"Anything we can do to reduce consumption at the schools will free up resources for the children's education, he said.

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