CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. – Carilion's New River Valley Medical Center has officially launched a first-of-its-kind project to make health care more affordable and help the environment.
A grid of nearly 4,000 solar panels now supplies the hospital with clean energy. That means they’re not only reducing their carbon footprint, but also saving money.
"Over the course of 20 years, we are expecting about $1.5 million," Scott Blankenship, Carilion director of facility operations, said.
The new project will also save patients money down the line.
"As expensive as health care is, anything that we can do to keep our costs down can be passed along to our patients ultimately," Bill Flattery, CEO of Carilion New River Valley Medical Center and vice president of Carilion's western region operations, said.
The nanogrid can power the hospital in the event of a blackout. It will generate nearly 20 percent of the hospital's annual energy needs.
"I think right now, even though it's raining out, we're generating about 18 percent of our power needs,"
Leaders from across the commonwealth, including Gov. Ralph Northam, were on hand for the flipping of the switch Tuesday. He said he's proud of the $3.8 million in economic development the project is expected to have in the area.
"We are really trying to drive the economy in all of Virginia and just to see the innovation and the progressive attitude of that here is really welcoming," Northam said.
Carilion's Christiansburg facility is now the first hospital in Virginia to use clean energy for backup power. Project leaders said they're working with other hospitals to help them go green too.
"This is rural Virginia, it doesn't mean that we're backwards," Blankenship said.