You might think public hospitals have a duty of care to protect the community and reduce emissions by applying a warm blanket of solar PV to their many hectares of rooftop space. The NSW Government is fulfilling that prescription.
When the $60 million Armidale Hospital redevelopment was opened in January last year, its rooftops were bare — “a conspicuous and disappointing omission”, says State MP, Adam Marshall. Last week he announced remedial measures that will see $950,000 of New South Wales Government funding top up the facility with a 600-kilowatt rooftop system to truly bring it into the present with its own renewable energy source.
“It’s obvious that hospitals consume a great deal of electricity,” said Marshall, “so this type of investment makes huge sense, slashing energy consumption and lowering day-to-day running costs.”
The PV installation is expected to supply 40% of the regional hospital’s energy needs, reducing its annual expenditure on electricity by $150,000, which must be deemed to bring it in line with the latest NSW Government Resource Efficiency Policy (GREP), published in January last year.
Since 2015, more than 14,000 kilowatts of solar has been installed on NSW Government buildings, including on the roofs of schools, hospitals, museums and administration buildings, and there’s more to come.
The GREP decrees that under the “Whole-of-government solar target” various government agencies will install some 18 MW of solar PV “on suitable sites” by 2021, which will grow to 40 MW by 2024, with the aim of reducing cost pressures associated with the rising costs of energy.
According to the GREP, the NSW Government spent $265 million on electricity in the year 2016-17; and the Government has noted that schools and hospitals account for nearly half of its total energy demand.
New South Wales brings sun to heal
pv magazine reported in January that the NSW Health and Medical Research Minister Brad Hazzard had announced $8.1 million in funding to install solar at Hornsby Ku-ring-gai, Fairfield, Canterbury and John Hunter hospitals.
The largest system to be installed on an Australian hospital will be at John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle, where solar panels will cover some 12,000 square meters of roof space, at a cost of $3.2 million. Works were scheduled to begin this month, and are expected to be completed by the end of 2020.
Dr Ramsey Awad, Executive Director of Infrastructure and Planning at Hunter New England Health, said at the time of the announcement, “Our core business is a healthy community, now and into the future. We want to be able to say, as an organisation, that we do no harm, and part of that includes ensuring we are not contributing to global warming.”
Minister Hazzard was also keen to point out that savings on electricity in the health sector can be reinvested into the health system.
In the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown, the 760 kW solar installation on Blacktown Hospital was completed, and is expected to save the hospital around 11% or $194,000 on its annual electricity bill.
Back in Armidale, Adam Marshall shared the announcement of funding for the hospital’s solar system with NSW Energy Minister Matt Kean, who may have been basking just a little, and justifiably so, in his earlier proclamation of a second NSW Renewable Energy Zone, which is destined to bring 8 GW of renewable energy to the Northern Tablelands region.
“Our region is the home of large-scale energy projects,” said Marshall, who added, “Solar is currently one of the cheapest ways to generate electricity. Our schools, hospitals and other buildings see lots of sunshine, and it makes absolute sense to capture it to offset their operating costs.”