Saint Peter’s Healthcare System launched the largest solar power system in a New Jersey hospital Friday on the roof of their Center for Ambulatory Resources in New Brunswick, marking a step toward making the hospital more environmentally friendly.
The panels on the Easton Avenue building are a part of a $9-million solar power project financed by PSE&G, said Phil Hartman, the director of Public Relations at Saint Peters Healthcare System.
When completed, Saint Peter’s will operate a totaled 2.1 megawatt-dc solar power system and save the hospital more than $10 million over the next 25 years, Hartman said. The amount of money saved from the health center’s solar panels will provide both patients and employees with improved facilities.
“It’s going to be a boom to programs by virtue of the savings that give us more money in our pockets to invest in things like new equipment or better patient services,” he said. “People won’t notice it directly, but they will reap the benefits.”
The rest of the hospital’s “green” project will commence in April, with an expected installation of solar panels at the hospital’s Family Health Center, located at How Lane. The remaining hospital locations will be worked on in June, Hartman said.
The combined projects are overseen by Robert Mulcahy, the Saint Peter’s vice president of Facilities, and are estimated to save about $800,000 annually. Electricity savings are expected to reach $10 million over the next 25 years, Hartman said.
Hartman said the installation of solar panels has excited the community, resulting in encouragement from city and state officials.
“We had a lot of support from Mayor Jim Cahill,” Hartman said. “We also had quite a lot of support from local assembly people and state senators, as well as the governor’s office, so I can’t say there is anyone who hasn’t been a fan of [the installation].”
All of the power received from the solar panels will stay within the Saint Peter’s system and will not get sold or dispersed elsewhere, Hartman said. The hospital will not need to purchase energy from outside sources, which allows it to be more self-sufficient.
Beyond the expected profits for the hospital, solar panels are also beneficial to the environment, said Nenad Gucunski, the chair of the University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
“Simply having the solar panels, you’d reduce carbon footprints,” Gucunski said. “We don’t need to use as much energy from our power plants, but we can substitute it with these alternative sources.”
While solar panels provide alternative sources of energy once they are installed, the manufacturing of solar panels themselves can lead to harmful emissions, said Mark Miller, a University associate professor in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.
“In the manufacturing process, you have to have materials, you use energy to manufacture the panels, and you use energy to transport them,” Miller said. “So there is no energy source that doesn’t come without a cost associated with it in terms of emissions, and solar panels are no exception.”
Miller said solar panels do not fully transfer all of the energy it receives into electricity, but the net effect it provides to the planet is very positive.
“[Solar panels] prevent further use of fossil fuels, and over a period of time, the costs are mitigated and you’re in positive territory,” he said. “[They’re] generating fuel without a negative implication on the environment.”
Cory Haluska, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior, said he is supportive of Saint Peters’ move to resort to solar energy and he hopes other organizations follow the initiative to do the same.
“Solar panels provide cleaner energy and save money and it’s good if more companies start switching to that technology because it’s beneficial to our futures,” Haluska said. “As an aspiring doctor, I’d want to have the newest technology and the best equipment available.