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20-acre solar farm opens in Parma

Rochester Regional Health
A drone captures an overhead view of Rochester Regional Health's 20-acre solar farm in Parma.

Rochester Regional Health has activated a solar farm in Parma that it says will power more than 100 of its smaller facilities.

It’s part of an effort announced last year to power the company’s operations with 100 percent renewable energy by 2025.

Rochester Regional Health CEO Eric Bieber acknowledged that he’s set an ambitious goal, but he said the new solar farm, which started distributing electricity through the utility grid last Friday, gets the company significantly closer to achieving it.

Kevin Schulte, CEO of GreenSpark, the company that built the solar farm, said it’s the largest project he’s worked on – “and we’ve done projects across the Northeast,” he said.

Mike Waller, Rochester Regional Health’s director of sustainability, said environmental and health issues are inextricably linked. “All environmental concerns eventually become health care concerns,” Waller said, “so all these environmental problems that we see – the only reason people are getting upset about them is because they’re eventually going to cause human health problems.”

Credit Brett Dahlberg / WXXI News
Meghann Schulte, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for GreenSpark, and Bill Court, the company's construction manager, walk past solar panels they've installed for Rochester Regional Health at a site in Parma.

Health care is energy-intensive, Waller said. The electricity generated at the Parma site could power about 750 homes, but will sustain only 120 of Rochester Regional Health’s smaller facilities.

“We took a look at our power that we consume, and it’s quite a bit across all of our sites,” said Waller. “It’s pretty crazy, at least when I got there, when you see the numbers that a hospital uses on a daily basis.”

In addition to changing its energy sources, Rochester Regional Health has said it’s also working to reduce the amount of energy it uses. “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,” the company said on its website.

It’s not always an easy transition. “They took my printer away!” Bieber admitted with a grin.

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