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San Benito Health Foundation unveils a solar-powered healthcare center

The San Benito Health Foundation’s Community Health Center in Hollister has just become California’s first fully self-sufficient, zero-carbon healthcare facility after installing a solar-powered micro grid system.

The foundation held a ribbon-cutting and open house event Wednesday, celebrating the upgraded facility that also underwent internal renovations. The building is now being powered by the sun with more than 120 solar panels on the roof.

This is part of the foundation’s effort to help combat climate change but also to ensure that they’ll be able to provide the community with essential services if a natural disaster were to hit.

“We want to make sure that we have power because power means an ability to provide services to the community and also for the community to find a safe harbor when they’re in need,” the foundation’s CEO Rosa Vivian Fernndez said.

Fernndez was inspired to do this after seeing the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in her home territory of Puerto Rico.

“After the hurricane in Puerto Rico, we were part of providing some assistance, and we found that power meant lives,” she said.

In the event of an emergency, the solar-powered system can generate enough energy to power the facility for 10 days without the sun, or even longer depending on conditions.

Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) praised the foundation for its efforts to care for its patients and the environment.

“The San Benito Health Foundation is now an example of what communities can do, not just across the state but across the country,” Panetta told KION.

To create this self-sufficient facility, the foundation teamed up with Greenpower, a project of Santa Cruz-based nonprofit the Romero Institute.

“If the power goes out, they’re going to be open, ready to serve patients. If there’s a natural disaster, they’ll be ready to serve patients,” Greenpower Director Benjamin Eichert said.

The solar panel project cost $1.7 million but the foundation was able to get some funding from grants and subsidies.

Chief Development Officer Robert Hymes of Mynt Systems, the general contractor on the project, said the upgrades will help save an estimated $40,000 a year.

In the future, California has plans to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.

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