The Northwest Georgia Medical Clinic is reporting a significant reduction of its energy footprint 11 months after installing a rooftop solar array on its building at 15 Riverbend Drive.
The privately owned clinic partnered with Renewvia Energy, an Atlanta-based firm, to offset more than 50 percent of its energy consumption.
Dr. James Vick, medical director of the clinic, said their move from a smaller site at 1105 N. Fifth Ave. led to increased power bills, but it also gave them more available space for solar panels. They decided to install as many as they could before the federal tax credit expires at the end of 2016.
“We want to be as green as we can,” Vick said. “Plus, when we moved from our old building to this building, our power bill was a lot. We’ve more than cut our bill in half these summertime months. It’s impressive to us and we want to do more of it.”
The system, which has 480 photovoltaic solar panels mounted across virtually the entire roof of the building, cost a little more than $364,000 to install.
Vick said the medical practice is offsetting more than 57 percent of the building’s power usage and, as a result, the clinic is protected from power rate increases for the next 25 years.
When the system was installed during November 2014, the clinic projected a payback through energy savings over seven years.
However, Vick said that if the past year is an accurate barometer, the savings could be accumulated as quickly as five years.
Eric Domescik, founder and president of Renewvia Energy, said the project is a prime example of a company that is able to use solar to realize practical economic benefits.
“The exciting thing is that recent declines in the cost of solar means there are countless other businesses in Rome, and across the country, that can experience the same energy savings,” Domescik said.
Vick said he’s enjoyed his experience with Renewvia, which has been registered as a Georgia corporation since 2012.
“They’re learning; we’re learning. It’s really been a lot of fun,” he said.
One of the features of the system is an app that allows Vick and his partners to track the energy consumption.
On Thursday afternoon, it showed the system had generated 388 kilowatt hours of power for the day.
The app also shows the Northwest Georgia Medical Clinic system has saved an estimated 119,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions since it was installed, equal to planting more than 6,600 trees.
Angie Smith, CFO of Northwest Georgia Medical Clinic, said the metering system is set up to directly offset the power they would otherwise have to purchase.
And the meter is bidirectional, which means that on the weekends, when the clinic is not open, the unused power is sold back to Georgia Power.
“With the expected increase in the energy rates, we were looking for an alternative option to traditional solar power buyback programs, which often lock you into a fixed rate for 20 years,” Smith said.
She said they’re also talking with the other tenants in the building about putting solar panels on their meters. Other tenants in the building, which is owned by the clinic, are the Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic, Children’s Dental Center and Rome Quest Diagnostics.
Vick said they’re also mulling the installation of a metal parking lot shade covered with solar panels.
“We’re fortunate the way the parking lot faces,” he said. “We could have shaded parking for our tenants and be generating power the whole time.”
Vick also said he would like to see electric vehicle charging stations powered by the solar panels situated adjacent to the building.