Little Rock VA Hospital Tears Down Never-Used Solar Panels

April 7, 2015

Two years after being completed, $8-million-worth of solar panels at a Little Rock, Ark., Veterans Affairs hospital have never been turned on, and now the hospital is tearing down some of the panels.

A chunk of the roughly 7,000 inactive solar panels outside the Little Rock Veterans Affairs Hospital was recently dismantled to make way for a new parking garage, Little Rock news outlet KATV reports:

The panels are being taken down for the construction of a parking garage. Channel 7 News obtained video of some of the panels being torn down last week. The panels will eventually be relocated to the top of that parking garage.

The Central Arkansas VA would not release the estimated cost to construct the panels and then later deconstruct them, calling it "procurement sensitive information", because the parking garage contract is ongoing.

The VA did not provide information on what stage the solar panel project was in when the parking garage was approved or if they could have halted the construction of that section of solar panels if there were plans to tear them down.

"The VA approved the Parking Garage project (and the subsequent location) after the Solar Project had already broken ground," a spokesperson for the VA said in a statement […]

The solar panels were built in 2013 after an $8 million dollar grant from the federal government. The panels were expected to produce 1.8 megawatts of power, but the project hit a snag.

In a statement to the Washington Free Beacon, Rep. French Hill (R., Ark.) said his office will investigate the project.

"The $8 million solar panel project, which appears to have been changed on a whim, may seem like a drop in the bucket when compared to the staggering $18 trillion federal debt, but every expense must be fully justified and our financial resources directed to assisting those we are trying to help—in this case Arkansas's veterans," Hill said. "If this story proves accurate, then simply put this is a government failure, and I will work with Congressional leadership and the VA to figure out how such a blatant waste of taxpayer money was ever allowed to occur."

The VA is under scrutiny from Congress for cost overruns after a Denver VA construction project was revealed to have ballooned to nearly $1.73 billion dollars.