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Green energy for healthcare
The carbon footprint of the NHS in England is 25 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (MtCO2e). The footprint is composed of procurement (61 per cent), building energy (17 per cent), travel (13 per cent) and commissioning (9 per cent). This is based on the NHS Sustainable Development Unit’s latest report which was published in December 2013 and is based on 2012 data.
Rising energy costs and strict legislation on carbon emissions are making renewable energy more appealing to hospitals. And where it was onced perceived as a group of niche technologies, improved funding, incentives and technology have allowed renewable energy to enter the mainstream and be more affordable to hospitals.
Renewable energy comes from resources which are naturally replenished such as sunlight, wind, and rain.
There are two types of solar panels; photovoltaic panels capture the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity and solar thermal collectors use the sun’s energy to heat glycol which passes through a coil.
The roof of the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Essex, now has what is believed to be the largest array of solar panels currently in the NHS.
The project was driven by a need to reduce energy spend and a grant of nearly £400,000 was secured from the Department of Health’s Energy Fund in 2007. Work started on installing two new energy efficient boilers and solar panels in summer 2008.
The solar panels use solar radiation and sunlight, so they work constantly, only slowing on really dull days when traditional energy sources are used to run or supplement the boilers. The solar panels heat up the sites water prior to it reaching the boilers therefore the boilers have to do significantly less work.
This has resulted in a 50 per cent reduction in the number of times the boilers have to fire up to heat the water to the safety levels specified.
The savings achieved by the solar panels and new efficient boilers equate to a reduction of 8,000m3 of gas and 16 tonnes CO2 per year.
Solar for Solihull
Solihull Hospital and Heartlands Hospital, Birmingham, part of the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust (HEFT), have installed Solar PV panels from Ecolution. The installation is predicted to deliver over £2 million from energy savings and Feed-in-Tariff payments (FIT) within the next 20 years.
The 2,000 panels were installed on over 28 roofs of varying pitch, orientation, height and covering.
In addition, accommodation of the electricity supply back-up generators, which are a vital lifeline when there is an electricity malfunction, presented an extra challenge. If the PV arrays ever produced more than the electricity load on the generator, the following back feed into the generator would cause a rise in voltage, which would prevent it from engaging. The generator would also feed the supply with the PV system causing potential damage to the PV array and generating equipment.
To negate this potentially life threatening problem, Ecolution connected a radio frequency module into a relay that provided it with a radio signal whenever the generator was about to engage.
The PV distribution board contactor then receives a signal to stop sending the electricity supply to the PV system, ensuring that the generators and PV systems do not operate simultaneously.
With HEFT spending over £1m per annum on energy, this installation will be saving them over 10 per cent on their current expenditure, with the benefit expected to rise even further as electricity prices rise in due course.
It has been conservatively estimated that HEFT should receive over £2,000,000.00 in benefits from the installations over the next 20 years, with approximately 50 per cent from energy savings and 50 per cent from feed-in-tariff revenue.
The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is the world’s first long-term financial support programme for renewable heat.
It pays participants of the scheme that generate and use renewable energy to heat their buildings, and is a good option for NHS buildings.
Pilgrim Hospital in Boston has delivered one of the largest, most complex and successful biomass heating projects in the UK.
In April 2008, capital funds were made available from the Department of Health’s Energy and Sustainability Fund and Lincolnshire County Council, under their Green Heat scheme. A solution was designed that made best use of the limited gas supply, whilst delivering significant further benefits. The technology selected was a 3MW biomass boiler integrated with a 526k
We gas fired reciprocating CHP engine (combined heat and power) and conventional steam oil boilers. The installation gives Pilgrim Hospital complete diversity of fuel supply with the base load being met by the biomass boiler and gas CHP engine, and peak demands met by standby fuel oil steam boilers. The control system enabled the complex arrangement to work effectively. The technology combination met all the challenges, providing the Trust with fuel flexibility, a reduction in carbon emissions and operating costs.
Energy savings in the order of £400,000 per annum are predicted for Pilgrim Hospital. Biomass heat is also ‘zero rated’ under the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), so the hospital is saving 265kg of carbon dioxide for every MWhour of oil displaced. The benefits of this are currently £42,000 per annum and are expected to exceed £60,000 per annum.
A new biomass boiler of a similar size to Pilgrim Hospital would be eligible for 2.0p/kWh payment from the RHI. This could equate to £200,000 per annum (depending on boiler run hours), which is additional to the significant financial savings already achievable through biomass heating.
The wood fuel used in the biomass boiler comes from either local woodlands that are managed to increase biodiversity or from clean recycled wood sources. The sale of wood chip fuel provides a stable, long term income to the rural economy, helping us to better manage and protect our fragile natural resources and can reduce the volume of waste wood going to landfill.