Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Solar and parking converge: Marshall to convert to LED lights

DSC_8178 ec

DANA RICE, director of construction and engineering for Marshall Medical, stands on the roof of the clinic in Placerville overlooking solar panels that have been installed in the parking lot. Democrat photo by Krysten Kellum

From page A1 | January 31, 2014 | 1 Comment

With everyone looking to save money, especially on energy, the installation of solar systems continues to gain in popularity, especially in California, which is the No. 1 state for solar energy.

According to the California Solar Energy Industries Association, California installed more megawatts of solar energy in 2013 than it did in the last 30 years combined.

Typically these solar systems are either mounted on roofs, poles or on ground-level structures. However, these types of mountings often come with some downsides.

A lack of ventilation in roof-mounted solar panels can reduce their efficiency and life span because of heat buildup. They also hamper repairs and limit access to the roof. Ground-mounted panels, on the other hand, take up a lot of space and also expose the panels to different hazards.

A newer approach is to mount the solar panels on a raised frame so the panels are ventilated with the space below used for something else — often parking.

One person doing so on a residential scale is local engineer Jim Dillingham of D&Z Structural Engineering. Motivated to make his home energy self-sufficient and to get some relief from those blisteringly hot days in El Dorado County, Dillingham designed and constructed a frame that attaches to his garage. Atop the frame are 60 solar panels that will make his home energy neutral, with the next step being to install an electric charging station for his cars.

“Once we have the electric cars, we won’t be paying for gasoline or electricity,” he said.

The solar canopy also shades his garage and is a popular play area for his children and dogs.

Dillingham said his panels generate about 4.5 kilowatts (kW) during the peak hours of between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. During the summer, they produce closer to 9 kW. Since the meters for the panels are connected to the Internet, he can monitor exactly how much power they are generating every day from wherever he’s at.

Dillingham said the total cost for the project was between $40,000 to $45,000, but that was with him doing a lot of the labor. For someone else, it would probably cost $60,000. However, Dillingham said he will get 30 percent of the cost back in a federal tax rebate and the rest will be paid back over several years in saved energy costs.

As an engineer, Dillingham said his company builds 20 to 25 solar-related structures a year. “Almost every custom-house we do these days has got solar panels on it,” he said. “There are big incentives to utilize solar. Big utilities and tech companies are doing it as well. We have a forward-looking state when it comes to energy.”

Also investing in solar and energy-saving technologies, albeit on a much larger scale, is Marshall Medical Center. Currently it is in the process of putting the finishing touches on a solar canopy structure over parking lot 1 at its Placerville location.

Already operational, the canopy’s 902 solar panels generate 263,000 watts and provide enough energy to supply at least 80 percent of the electrical needs of the nearby clinic building. On an annual basis, the canopy is expected to generate 411,462 kW hours of electricity.

Dana Rice, who is the director of construction and engineering at the hospital, said the project cost $1 million but is being paid for through a lease agreement with Hunter Energy, the company that built and financed it. Marshall will pay for the canopy over 15 to 20 years and by the end of the lease, will own it.

Rice said the canopy allows the hospital to reduce its operating costs related to energy and capital costs, adding that last year they spent slightly over $1 million for electricity alone. The canopy also provides shade and protection from the elements for the cars in the parking lot.

Previously Marshall erected the same kind of solar canopy at its Cameron Park facility in 2008. That canopy produces 670 kW of peak power compared to the 278 kW at the 1095 Marshall Way clinic location. Rice said the Cameron Park system saves the hospital approximately $13,522 annually in electricity costs. The new system at Marshall Way, though much smaller, will save approximately $9,201 annually. “So you can see how much more effective the new systems are than just five years ago,” said Rice.

Other energy-saving actions the hospital is taking include putting in 3,500 LED lamps throughout their facilities that are expected to save them $84,000 a year. They are also replacing their parking lot lights with LED lamps. Next year they are looking at thermal storage where they make ice at night when the energy is cheaper and more plentiful to supplement their air conditioning units.

Rice said these improvements are part of an overall plan of reducing operating costs by cutting back on energy use and changing the model for health care delivery, including doing more health coaching to keep people from needing to use the hospital.

Rice said Marshall is working with the nursing program at Folsom College to use student interns while at the same time they earn credits, he said. “We’re also working with tech companies to do such things as monitor whether or not someone is taking their medication.”

Rice said many of these strategies are the result of Obamacare. “We are working to reduce our operating costs because Obamacare will reduce payments to hospitals,” he said. “This is particularly important in El Dorado County because such a large portion of Marshall’s patient load is made up of Medicare and Medi-Cal patients.”

Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.


Discussion | 1 comment

  • LakesiderJanuary 31, 2014 - 12:28 pm

    15 to 20 years to own it means those same solar panels will be producing much less energy by ownership time. What is the life expediency of the panels? Solar sounds great but notice how most is subsidized through tax rebates or grants s savings minimal when one adds in maintenance or panel replacement costs. Sure makes people feel good though....

    Reply | Report abusive comment


No quick fix for California’s highways

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1

More mountain lion sightings reported

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1, 1 Comment

Supervisor Nutting trial begins

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1, 8 Comments | Gallery

Sanford murder case to jury

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Herard over the back fence: Try fishing at Wakamatsu

By Bob Billingsley | From Page: B1

Downtown group coordinates painting, awnings

By Wendy Schultz | From Page: A1

Gearing tax questions to correct office saves time

By Treasurer-Tax Collector | From Page: A3



My turn: More than a buzzword

By Special to the Democrat | From Page: A4, 3 Comments

Building restored

By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4

Outstanding dog

By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4




By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 3 Comments

Altshuler framing

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

National Day of Prayer

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

‘Parents, be afraid’ letter

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 3 Comments

Ukranian situation

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 2 Comments



Pedal power at the forefront next month

By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A6 | Gallery

Outside with Charlie: Transitioning

By Charlie Ferris | From Page: A6

Pitching the ‘Root’ cause of Trojans’ victory

By Mike Bush | From Page: A6 | Gallery

Sports Scene: April 22, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A7

Roundup: April 22, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A7



4-H’ers star at showcase

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: B1 | Gallery

At a glance: Look for fireballs

By Mimi Escabar | From Page: B2, 1 Comment

Authors to share their stories

By Pat Lakey | From Page: B2, 1 Comment

Church to host human trafficking conference

By Pollock Pines | From Page: B3

Grow For It! Flower of Easter

By Barbara Schuchart | From Page: B5



Crime Log: April 1-3

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

Weather stats 4-22-14

By Michael Raffety | From Page: A2

Building permits 4/7-11/2014

By Michael Raffety | From Page: A2



Bobby Lloyd Bridges

By Contributor | From Page: A2

Harry Frank Harper

By Contributor | From Page: A2

Marion “Wayne” Griswold

By Contributor | From Page: A2


Real Estate



Speed Bump

By Contributor | From Page: A8


By Contributor | From Page: A8

Horoscope, Thursday, April 24, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Horoscope, Wednesday, April 23, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Working It Out

By Contributor | From Page: A8

TV Listings

By Contributor | From Page: A8


By Contributor | From Page: A8


By Contributor | From Page: A8


By Contributor | From Page: A8

New York Times Crossword

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Flying McCoys

By Contributor | From Page: A8