Lakes Region EMS, the ambulance provider that serves Chisago County, parts of Isanti and Pine counties, and a portion of western Wisconsin, is starting to see some significantly reduced power bills at its North Branch headquarters.

The reason for that reduction is the new solar array that was installed on the building’s roof this spring.

Lakes Region EMS Director Aarron Reinert said during their first billing cycle for May and part of June, the amount paid for power usage at the building dropped by about $400, which is a significant portion of a bill that can hover around $1,500 a month during the summer when air conditioning is running, lights are on, and various tech devices are plugged in at the facility. At peak capacity, Reinert said the panels can produce about half of the electricity needed to power the Lakes Region building.

“We’ve put approximately $100,000 into the solar panels,” Reinert said. “It is clearly is an investment that is about our environment — it certainly has those pieces. But, for us, it’s really about expense. So as ambulance services continue to see decreases in our reimbursement, whether that’s because of Medicare or Medicaid, or high deductible health insurances individuals may have, the better we can be at our expenses, such as utility bills, the more sustainable we can be in the long term.”

Reinert said the $100,000 up front investment seemed like a lot at the time, but he noted the life of the panels is 25 years. The money Lakes Region is saving on power should cover the cost of the panels in 15 years or less, meaning that after that time, all the saved money can go back into offsetting costs of running the ambulance service or be allocated to charitable initiatives.

Reinert said he wanted to recognize Dr. Chris Ward, Lakes Region’s physician medical director, for informing the ambulance service’s leadership about the cost-saving opportunities associated with solar.

“He is passionate about solar, and it’s just something he’s been intrigued by,” Reinert said. “He has solar at his own home. He brought it to us to ask us if we had thought about it because of our building, where we’re at, and this huge roof space we have.”

If the solar panels work as anticipated at the North Branch building, Lakes Region is considering installing similar arrays at its Rush City and Lindstrom facilities and its locations in Wisconsin.

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