Renewable Energy: A Public Health Imperative

Increasing the use of renewable-sourced energy is a public health imperative and healthcare organizations are in a prime position to lead the way. We know that at every stage of traditional fossil fuels and the ever-more extractive fossil fuels, from extraction to burning, are a leading source of negative health impacts across the globe. The healthcare sector combats and mitigates the resulting health problems every day. Renewable sources of energy like solar and wind offer healthier, brighter, and more resilient communities.

Today, we shine a light on healthcare industry leaders as they strive to sustain their legacy of caring for their communities while adding significant momentum to the renewable energy revolution. Hospitals and healthcare providers across the US are partnering with renewable energy companies and announcing massive sustainability initiatives, which not only produce a healthier environment, but also guard against damage from the increasing amount of extreme weather events (spurred by climate change and our continued reliance on dirty energy).

One can imagine that high energy use = massive bills! And the healthcare industry is the second most energy intensive commercial industry (after the food industry) in the United States. By installing solar energy, healthcare organizations save big on their electric bills, which is inseparable from their goal to provide the highest quality care possible by staying financially fit. Spending less on energy bills and instead investing in a strong financial decision gives these organizations options to improve on quality patient care, pay living wages to all employees, and introduce groundbreaking research, to name a few.

Courtesy of Rochester Regional Health

Rochester Regional Health, an integrated health services network serving families in communities across Western New York and the Finger Lakes region, is taking the lead regionally in making an intentional choice to shift the outcome of our planet. In 2017, at the ribbon cutting for the solar array on the roof of their Reidman Campus, Rochester Regional Health announced that by 2025, all electricity used by the system will come from renewable sources! As stated on their website,

Climate change is a human health issue because it both directly and indirectly leads to negative human health outcomes such as increases in heat related illnesses, the spread of vector-borne diseases, and acute afflictions caused by extreme weather events. Additionally, many of the changing climate patterns place socioeconomic stresses on areas that result in generational negative health consequences such as pervasive poverty. At Rochester Regional, we recognize that we have played a part in causing the climate related challenges we face today, and are committed to reducing the impact we have in the present and future.”

GreenSpark partnered with Rochester Regional Health to install the 400kW solar array, which consists of 1,432 solar panels. The project was completed in 2017 and is expected to produce around 550,000 kWh annually, providing power to 20 of their locations. It will offset approximately 848,000 lbs of CO2 emissions each year.

We can no longer ignore the entwined relationship of human health and our environment. When we see influential, long established organizations, such as Rochester Regional Health, choosing to join the global environmental movement at a local level, we are inspired, not only by the momentum of solar energy, but also by the potential for additional health care organizations to recognize their potential for local impact and take action.

Brittania Smead, GreenSpark NY

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