Asheville Ophthalmology Practice Eyes Clean Energy Technologies

Contact: Katy Farlow

(828)258-1586, Ext. 2331

Date: November 6, 2015

Release: Immediate

Asheville Ophthalmology Practice Eyes Clean Energy Technologies

Asheville Eye Associates One of the First Regional Healthcare Providers to Reduce Carbon Footprint

Asheville, NC --  You may have seen solar panels dotting the farmland in Hendersonville or  Canton, or glimpsed Biltmore Estate’s solar farm along the south side corridor of I-40.   Parking lot solar canopies greet visitors to Sierra Nevada’s new Mills River state-of-the-art brewery and historical Biltmore Avenue buildings which house popular local restaurants Mellow Mushroom and City Bakery.  But you probably haven’t seen them at your doctor’s office.   That’s about to change.

One area healthcare provider has set its sights on solar energy technology, making Asheville Eye Associates one of the first medical practices in Western North Carolina to embrace solar energy as a way to reduce its carbon footprint on the environment.  The multi-specialty eye care practice recently commissioned installation of a system of photovoltaic (PV) arrays solar panels on its 38,000 square foot office facility located in the Regional Medical Park off Sweeten Creek Road in Asheville.

Edward K. Isbey, III, MD said the 13-physician group explored renewable solar technologies as a way to curb fossil fuel- based energy consumption at its main facility. 

“We wanted to supplement our heating and cooling system with a more environmentally viable option in an effort to reduce our fossil fuel consumption.  The desire to “go green” and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution led us to investigate renewable energy systems,” he said.  “Global concerns about climate change, and regional air and water quality are issues which affect all of us who live and work in Western North Carolina.  So it makes sense for us to move towards sustainable energy strategies such as solar power as we renovate our facilities.”

“Weaverville-based Sundance Power Systems, a leading solar installer in the Southeastern US, designed and is installing our system.  This project is very appealing to us as a reflection of our values and desire to be good stewards of natural resources for the benefit of our community,” said Isbey III. 

Installation began on October 5 for the new rooftop PV American-made SolarWorld module on calibrated customized racking.  The grid-tied system will generate about 20% of the building’s electricity needs per year, and the power produced by the system will be used directly by the building. Installation of the PV array will require approximately three weeks. 

Economics was another factor in the practice’s decision to install solar panels.  “The technology has developed to the point that it is a sound long-term investment due to increasing energy costs and PV technology becoming more accessible and affordable,” stated Robert E. Wiggins, Jr.,MD, Asheville Eye Associates’ Physician Administrator.

“In this era of rising healthcare costs, our practice is exploring all avenues to cut overhead expenses so that we may gain operating efficiencies to keep services as affordable as possible for our patients,” Wiggins said.

“As business owners that process extends to all aspects of our facility construction and maintenance,” he said.   “By making a business investment in clean energy options which were not available when we broke ground on the 8 Medical Park Drive office in 1999, we can realize cost savings which enable us to be fiscally and environmentally mindful and hopefully reduce the impact of pollution on the health and wellness of our community,” he said, noting state and federal tax incentives currently available for PV systems.

While the shift to renewable energy resources in the healthcare sector has lagged behind the commercial and private sectors, there is a growing commitment in the healthcare industry to reduce its carbon output. Nationally few medical centers are using 100% renewable energy sources.  Gunderson Health System in La Crosse, Wisconsin was the first U.S. hospital to achieve that long-term goal in 2014. The multi-state system serves a total of 4 hospitals and around 75 medical clinics in three states. 

More commonly healthcare organizations have successfully converted to partial replacement of fossil fuel-based energy sources to reduce the health and environmental implications of pollution on their communities.  For example, 3 of Boston’s Partners HealthCare hospitals (including Massachusetts General) were named among Becker’s Hospital Review of “50 of the Greenest Hospitals in America 2015”.  The health system obtains about 26% of the electricity it purchases for its facilities from renewable resources.

In 2007 North Carolina adopted a Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS), a set of regulations which outline renewable energy standards statewide.  By 2014 North Carolina ranked 2nd nationally in solar installations and has developed into a national leader in the solar industry.

However, as North Carolina’s 35% investment tax credit (ITC) for solar and other renewable energy investments will expire on December 31 this year due to the September 2015 budget put forth in the NC state House and Senate, this strong position is jeopardized.  The 30% federal tax credit now available to individuals and companies is set to expire in December 2016. 

Asheville Eye Associates is pleased to utilize solar technology and support local business in its efforts to “go green” and reduce its carbon footprint.

About Asheville Eye Associates: 

Asheville Eye Associates is a multi-specialty ophthalmology practice which has provided eye care to people in Asheville and the Western North Carolina region for over 50 years.

About Sundance Power Systems:

Based just north of Asheville NC, Sundance Power Systems has been empowering people with solar since 1995, and is a recognized leader in the Clean Energy Industry.