A large, solar energy field is nearing completion in eastern Hanover County, and health insurer Anthem Inc. has agreed to buy power from the project under a 15-year deal.
Anthem said Friday it has signed a deal to buy power from SunEnergy1, a Mooresville, N.C.-based developer of solar energy projects that is opening the 182-acre solar power array at 3015 Mechanicsville Turnpike that will provide about 20 megawatts of energy. The solar field is expected to be fully operational later this year.
The Hanover site, along with another solar array in Edgecombe County, N.C. , which is about four times the size of the Hanover site and from which Anthem also is buying power, will offset Anthem’s power use from all of its U.S. offices in 26 states, or a total of about 10 million square feet of office space, which is the rough equivalent of about 30,000 homes.
Anthem has set a goal of sourcing all of its energy from renewable energy sources by 2025.
“This is a huge, huge project for us that will be a complete offset for us by the year 2025,” said Jeff Ricketts, president of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Virginia, the state’s largest healthcare insurer.
“We recognize that climate change affects the social and environmental determinates of health, and is a threat to human health,” he said.
The healthcare sector accounts for about 10% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, Ricketts said. A large amount of Anthem’s power use is in Virginia, he said, mostly because Anthem has most of its data centers in Richmond, Virginia Beach and Harrisonburg.
“These initiatives, along with others, have allowed us to meet our 2020 sustainability goals,” Ricketts said.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Anthem’s deal is another step toward sustainable energy practices in Virginia. “It is clear that we all, as a society and businesses and state agencies, really need of wean ourselves away from fossil fuels, and it is not going to to happen overnight, but it is a commitment that all of us need to make,” Northam said at the announcement event.
“It is good for the environment, but another point that I want to make is that it is good for business,” Northam said. “It is good for jobs. These projects create jobs. They put people to work.”
SunEnergy1 is renting the Hanover property. Anthem said that the Hanover solar array, combined with the solar field in North Carolina coming online in early 2021, will have more than 1,000 acres of solar panels.
The Hanover site is the first developed in Virginia by SunEnergy1, said Brian Kennedy, chief development officer for the company. The company has installed close to 20,000 megawatts of solar energy in the last seven years, he said.
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