VA Solar Panels Go Online Four Years Late, $1.5 Million Over Budget

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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The Little Rock VA medical center in Arkansas has finally activated its solar panel project — four years behind schedule and $1.5 million past the budget.

The solar panels came online Sunday. Officials hope the panels will provide 2.6 million kilowatt hours, which is only enough to power about 12 percent of the medical center’s total energy requirements, Arkansas Online reports.

Back in August 2016, Little Rock officials assumed their solar panel system would be up by January, but more delays still kept the project offline until Sunday.

John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital director Dr. Margie Scott applauded the completion of the solar panel project.

“This is a major step forward in energy conservation,” Scott said. “Now that it is powered on, the system will reduce the carbon footprint, help protect the environment and produce 10-12 percent of electrical power for the hospital.”

The Little Rock project, as part of the VA’s Green Management Program, began in 2012 at the facility and has dragged along, beset by delay after delay and cost overruns.

Although the project is now online, GOP Rep. French Hill still has questions about the entire effort.

“The four-year delay and subsequent cost increases on a project that will potentially yield no real benefit for the facility or taxpayers is evidence of a larger problem and the need for construction management reform at VA,” Hill told Arkansas Online.

Problems plaguing the Little Rock VA solar panel project have been widespread throughout the system.

An inspector general report from August 2016 discovered that the VA spent $408 million as part of its solar panel efforts. This occurred from 2010 to 2015, despite the fact that veterans continued to have to deal with long wait times and poor medical care across the VA medical system.

Most of the solar projects at other VA medical centers were not completed on schedule.

GOP Sen. John Boozman, on the other hand, was slightly more optimistic than Hill.

“This is long-awaited good news for a project that has clearly suffered from systemic mismanagement,” Boozman told Arkansas Online. “VA can and must do a better job in order to ensure it manages its funds in a manner that best serves our veterans. I am hopeful that these solar panels will meet the needs of this facility and allow VA to do more with its resources to help our veterans.”

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