Carilion New River Valley Medical Center installing solar panels to power hospital

Around 4,000 solar panels are being installed

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. – A local hospital has launched a project that may one day bring down medical costs while helping the environment.

Around 4,000 solar panels are being installed in an effort to save money and make Carilion's New River Valley Medical Center more sustainable. The panels will generate nearly 20 percent of the hospital's annual energy needs.

"It's inspiring. It's really awesome, to be honest with you, to be privileged to champion a project like this that not only benefits the community, it benefits the hospital, but it benefits the environment as well," said Scott Blankenship, with Carilion Clinic Western Region Hospitals.

Once completed, it will be the largest solar tracking field in the commonwealth. Planners say it's an energy boost for the hospital, a step forward for the environment, and could be a cost-cutter for patients at the hospital.

"Over the life cycle of the project and the field, we expect about a $3.5 million savings for the hospital and that will allow us to put more money back to direct patient care opportunities," said Blankenship.

The massive solar project began about two years ago and the hospital expects to start seeing a payback in about 10 years. In a state where solar energy is showing up more and more, the project may just be the beginning. 

"This is really of news note not only for Carilion Hospital but for Virginia as well, because this is moving us to a much more resilient economy, creating jobs," said Tony Smith, CEO of Secure Futures.

All the panels should be installed and the project fully operational by sometime in November.