CHC’s solar power project completed

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Posted on Sep 10 2020

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For those who haven’t been to the Commonwealth Health Center in Lower Navy Hill lately, the back portion of the hospital, which used to be an extensive parking lot, now sports new awnings that are also equipped with solar panels. The solar panel project, called the Photovoltaic System Parking Shade Structure, is estimated to save the hospital as much as $700,000 in utility costs a year. The project started in October 2019.
(NEIL FAMA)

After nearly a year of construction, the first phase of the Commonwealth Health Center’s solar power project has been completed, resulting in a covered parking lot at the back of the building that generates power for two of the hospital’s medical departments.

Warren Villagomez, who heads the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force, says that the solar panels—which are affixed to the roofs of the awnings that now cover parts of the CHC rear parking lot—are generating power for the “most heavily loaded department,” which is the hospital’s emergency room and radiology department.

He said they have been doing a “measurable load calculation” on the hospital’s power savings and they concluded that the hospital will be able to save 18% to 20% of CHC’s regular power load.

The project, called the Photovoltaic System Parking Shade Structure, first broke ground on Aug. 13, 2018, but started official construction only in October 2019. The 2018 groundbreaking was only for the first phase of the project that would cover the entire parking lot of the hospital.

“The first phase will cover section D of the parking lot. We’re applying for other grants so we could continue all the way to the north side,” said Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. chief executive officer Esther L. Muña in an earlier interview.

With the solar power panels now fully activated, the new solar panels are projected to lessen the corporation’s recurring monthly bill with the Commonwealth Utilities Corp., Villagomez said.

CHCC estimates to save as much as $700,000 a year on its utility bills once the project is completed.

The project was made possible after CHCC received a $560,000 grant from the Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs Energizing Insular Communities program. According to previous articles, the first phase of CHCC’s solar power project was partially funded by the $560,000 grant provided by the Department of the Interior but CHCC had to cover the remaining $342,301.

Muña earlier said that a project like this should have happened long ago, especially for a 30-year-old healthcare facility that needs more renovations. Additionally, with CHCC saving an estimate of $700,000 yearly, it would give them a chance to pay for other medical services as well.

Justine Nauta
Justine Nauta is Saipan Tribune's community and health reporter and has covered a wide range of news beats, including the Northern Marianas College and Commonwealth Health Care Corp. She's currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services at NMC.

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