When a massive solar panel project is completed later this year at Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento, solar arrays covering the medical center parking lots will generate 2.3 megawatts of power, making it the largest solar project at any Kaiser Permanente location.
Sixteen other solar projects are on pace to come online by the end of this year, bringing the total number at Kaiser Permanente Northern California facilities to 41.
Clean energy projects like these are an important part of the story of how Kaiser Permanente became the first health system in the United States to become carbon neutral. The organization achieved this milestone by reducing greenhouse gas emissions significantly and balancing remaining emissions with projects that remove carbon from the atmosphere through carbon offsets.
Climate Health and Human Health
“Working to become carbon neutral required a serious commitment from people throughout the organization — from leadership, to treasury, to facilities operations,” said Seth Baruch, Kaiser Permanente national director for Energy and Utilities. “We’re one of very few large companies that have done this, and it’s gratifying to be a part of that.”
Four years ago, Kaiser Permanente committed to becoming carbon neutral in 2020 because of the strong connection between climate health and human health.
“Climate change is real, and it’s impacting the health of our communities and people around the world,” said Yvette Radford, vice president of External and Community Affairs, Kaiser Permanente Northern California. “Eliminating our carbon footprint is one of the most effective ways we can contribute to a healthier environment and improve conditions for health and equity.”
Crossing the Carbon Neutral Finish Line
Across the organization, Kaiser Permanente reached this goal by purchasing more than 360 megawatts of power from renewable sources, installing 44 megawatts of onsite solar arrays at Kaiser Permanente facilities (enough to power 9,600 homes for a year), improving energy efficiency in its buildings, and purchasing carefully selected carbon offsets to mitigate unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions.
Regionally, in addition to housing dozens of solar projects, Northern California is home to other clean energy projects that helped Kaiser Permanente cross the carbon neutral finish line, including:
- NextEra Energy Resources’ Golden Hills wind farm on the Altamont Pass in Alameda County, where Kaiser Permanente has a long-term contract to purchase 43 megawatts of wind power
- The first renewable hospital microgrid in California at Kaiser Permanente Richmond, where a solar panel installation on the medical center’s parking garage rooftop generates clean power, and the microgrid stores one megawatt-hour of energy in batteries until it’s needed
- 227 electric vehicle charging stations
As part of its journey to carbon neutral, Kaiser Permanente also designed more energy efficient buildings and increased the efficiency of existing ones, reducing the organization’s overall energy use intensity by 8% since 2013. Kaiser Permanente operates close to 400 buildings in Northern California.
“For years, our engineers have been optimizing building operations, replacing traditional lighting with LED lights, and our local facility green teams have been encouraging employees and physicians to reduce energy use,” said Arik Goodman, Kaiser Permanente Northern California practice specialist for Kaiser Permanente Northern California Regional Operations.
Goodman described Kaiser Permanente’s efforts as cutting edge, but he said the work has been done largely in the background.
“It’s nice to look up and realize what we’ve accomplished, but we still have a lot to do to meet our future environmental goals, so we’re going to keep pushing.”
Wondering how you can reduce your carbon footprint? Check out our tips.