VA Hospital Gets Largest Solar Carport

The Department of Veterans Affairs wants 15 percent of its energy to come from renewables by 2013. And a newly announced project looks like it’ll give the VA a big boost in getting toward that goal: A vast carport — the largest photovoltaic carport in the country, in fact — at the Phoenix VA Medical Center in Arizona.

SunWize Systems won the contract for the 3 megawatt expansion on a 630 kilowatt carport the company is already putting in at the hospital. SunWize said that when the whole system is installed it will generate more than 5.7 million kilowatt-hours of energy annually — equivalent to what around 600 homes would use.

image via Sunwize Systems

In addition to the clean-energy benefits of the project, there’s also the matter of shade. In the high-sun Southwest, this benefit apparently can’t be understated. In California’s Antelope Valley, it was cited both with a public-transit carpark and a project to solar-power local high schools.

“This project allows us to drastically expand our available footprint for solar collection, while simultaneously providing our veterans the added benefit of shaded parking,” said James Larson, energy manager at the medical center.

The VA said this week that it had awarded $78 million in contracts for PV systems, in a second round of projects. “The benefits of using solar power are significant, from our reduced utility bills to the quality of the air we breathe,” Department Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a press release. “This initiative is good for Veterans and good for our environment.”

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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