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Sun and shade

Kevan Goff-Parker November 14th, 2012

Visitors at Oklahoma City Veterans Affairs Medical Center can’t miss it: A massive, gray and black solar-panel system now looms over half of the parking lot, providing both shade and power for the medical facility and the more than 225,000 veterans it serves.

Russ Goering, OKC VAMC facility energy engineer, said construction began last year after the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs awarded $56.7 million in contracts to VA medical centers in five sunny states, including Oklahoma.

“The system is robust and about 300 by 200 feet in size,” Goering said. “[It] provides double benefits because our veterans get some shaded parking, and we get to offset a portion of what we currently pay in electric utility bills.”

The system will provide about 5 percent of the center’s overall energy, saving about $110,000 per year. The project cost $4.6 million and the payback period is estimated to be about 30 years.

Goering said the Energy Policy Act of 2005 provides incentives for energy-efficiency projects, as well as for the purchase and use of solar equipment.

“We did a feasibility study to determine what would be the best type of renewable energy that we could use at our site,” he said. “Solar power was far and away the best option.”

Goering said the VA facility’s move toward using clean energy has come as welcome news for employees and visitors.

“We have another green project in our long-range plans,” he said. “Everyone likes the idea of going green and my engineering chief and the administration has been very supportive.”

The solar energy system is also hail-resistant and comes with a 20-year output guarantee that will replace any severely damaged panels, as needed.

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