Solar Hot Water Saves Health Care Dollars

When we write about solar thermal technology, we’re usually talking about large-scale power plants or residential solar hot water systems. But solar thermal technology is versatile, scalable and appropriate for a wide range of applications that require heat. An interesting – and potentially life saving – application for solar thermal technology is in the health care industry.

DaVita, a provider of kidney dialysis services for patients with chronic kidney disease, installed a solar thermal hot water system at their Scottsburg, Ind., clinic in 2010. The dialysis process involves heating water to a temperature equivalent to the human body before it is filtered in the blood cleaning process, and the company hoped that the solar hot water system would help reduce clinic’s natural-gas use. And it has, trimming gas consumption by 75 percent, compared to other facilities in the region, the company said.


image via DaVita

According to DaVita CEO Kent Thiry, the company is encouraged by the initial results from this trial, and will continue to analyze and evaluate the data through the end of this year. If the pilot remains successful, DaVita hopes to expand the use of solar thermal technology to more of its nearly 1,670 facilities. With over 130,000 patients across the country, proving that solar water heating works for DaVita could have ripple effects throughout the health care industry.

DaVita notes that it has implemented several sustainability initiatives, including a pilot program that will turn medical waste into reusable plastic – diverting up to 300,000 pounds of waste from the landfill. The company also opened the first LEED-certified U.S. dialysis clinic and is testing other renewable energy technologies, including a water turbine at a clinic in San Francisco.

Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).


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