by Chris Saur, Encinitas Advocate
On a trip through Encinitas, it’s not uncommon to see quite a few houses outfitted with solar panels as the energy savings isn’t just good for reducing footprint, but actually saves homeowners a bit of money.
Fly over the big businesses in Encinitas, however, and there wasn’t much to see in terms of harnessing the sun’s energy — until now. The North Coast Health Center, which is owned and operated by AmeriCare Medical Properties and is home to El Camino Pediatrics, Davis Pediatric Dental, Imaging Healthcare Specialists, Scripps Coastal Medical Group and more similar healthcare operations, now features nearly 730 photo voltaic panels on its roof space. The switch is expected to be officially flipped early next month, after which time the center will generate around 75 percent of its own house energy.
The key to the decision to go solar, according to AmeriCare president Greg Petree, was the fact that it makes both economic and environmental sense.
“It’s clearly beneficial, not only to the bottom line, but to the environment and the local community as well,” Petree said. “There’s a saying we use here and it’s ‘doing well by doing good.’ ”
For the company’s investment of just over $650,000, the 265 kilowatt system will generate more than 450,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year. According to the EPA, that’s the equivalent of reducing 36,000 gallons of gasoline each year or 338,000 tons of coal not being burned every year.
On the financial side of things, company projections have the solar panels paying for themselves in about seven years.
“The nice part about solar is there is a return,” Petree said. “You make a large upfront capital investment and it does reduce another operating expense on a different part of the balancing sheet. Given enough time, it should make sense.”
AmeriCare hired Borrego Solar to convert the center, and the people there say solar power should be getting more and more cost effective.
“Solar has continued to become increasingly cost effective for California businesses and public entities,” explained Borrego Solar project developer Audrey Copeland. “The cost of installing solar has fallen quickly and by a lot, due to things like technology advancements and the simple fact that the industry has matured.”
A healthcare developer and operator with headquarters in Solana Beach, AmeriCare builds and operates large outpatient health centers — this one in Encinitas and the Vista Medical Plaza — as well as large retirement communities, one each in San Marcos and Fallbrook, under the brand name of SilverGate.
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