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El Paso VA saving money by using solar panels

The El Paso VA Medical Center now has solar panels. It's a part of the government's "Go Green" initiative.

The El Paso Veterans Affairs Medical Center is going green.

The center now has working solar panels, which allows it to generate and consume its own electricity.

It’s all a part of a bigger governmental effort to “Go Green,” saving the VA thousands of dollars.

"We're going green, we're saving money, potentially to be used for other efforts to help our veterans out in the long run,” said Robert Lopez III, chief of facilities at the El Paso VA Medical Center.

He said it’s allowing them to save money.

It "equates to about $56,000 annually in savings,” he said.

Lopez said the initiative to install these solar panels started in 2015, construction started last year and they became operational this year.

"So, right now, we have 84 panels, which generate about 528 kilowatts, which accounts for about 11% of our energy consumption here, on a daily basis,” he said. "All of the power that's produced and generated stays here at the building."

He said the El Paso VA is one of only a few across the country using this new energy-saving plan.

KFOX14 asked the director of the El Paso VA, Michael Amaral, what the facility plans on doing with the money saved.

He said it could be used in many ways.

"Whether that be expanding the services, buying new equipment, hiring more staff, it's really at our discretion to use this to provide better care to our patients,” said Amaral. "And it's a good use of our tax dollars."

Amaral said he’s unsure if the building will ever become 100% self-sustainable.

He told us though the savings seem minimal, that money can help in big ways.

"Every dollar counts and our carbon footprint is being reduced and it's the right thing for our environment, it's the right thing for El Paso and it's the right thing for our veterans,” he said.

Lopez said the El Paso VA has also changed its lighting to LED throughout the facility.

Also, there are now controls on the boiler and chiller systems to help them monitor energy use efficiently.

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