September 24, 2013

Kaiser Permanente pioneered solar power in health facilities in 1980

Congressman Norman Mineta, Santa Clara Mayor William Gissler and others dedicated Santa Clara Medical Centers solar panel project, July 17, 1980.
Congressman Norman Mineta (center), Santa Clara Mayor William Gissler and others dedicate Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center's solar panel project on Solar Day, July 17, 1980.

Thirty-three years ago, local and national dignitaries celebrated Kaiser Permanente for its launch of an onsite solar thermal project at its Santa Clara Medical Center in the middle of Silicon Valley.

That Solar Day celebration in July 1980 resonates today with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2013 Green Power Leadership Award given to Kaiser Permanente for its onsite generation of 17 million kilowatt-hours of solar power in 2012.

Solar thermal technology of the 1980s spawned projects like Santa Clara Medical Center's; today the science has advanced to facilitate cost-effective generation of electrical power.

The solar power generated at six Kaiser Permanente medical centers, five medical offices, and a distribution center represents 7 percent of the electricity used at these facilities. Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center, built in August 2007, is one of the medical centers that put up an array of new solar panels in 2011.

The solar installations are helping Kaiser Permanente achieve its goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020 (from 2008 levels). Over the decades, Kaiser Permanente has been in the forefront of trends toward conservation and the use of renewable resources.

Elected officials touted early solar installation

In 1980, then-Congressman Norman Mineta of the 13th Congressional District, Santa Clara Mayor William Gissler, and other elected officials joined Kaiser Permanente representatives on the roof of the Santa Clara Medical Center to dedicate the solar thermal installation.

During the ceremony, Mayor Gissler presented a proclamation of the city’s support to Santa Clara Medical Center Administrator Tom Seifert.

At the time, Assistant Regional Medical Centers Administrator Bill Schneider noted that the project was one of the largest solar installations at a health care facility in the United States. He said the panels heated 30 percent of the hot water used at the medical center.

The 1980 Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara project cost $250,000 and was partially funded by the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that two other organizations who won the EPA’s 2013 Leadership Awards are also in Santa Clara County: Apple Inc., based in Cupertino, and the County of Santa Clara.