solar installation

Environmental sustainability with solar electricity and hot water

What is believed to be the largest solar energy system on a hospital in Australia will be installed at the Friendly Society Private Hospital during the next three months.

The project will see the installation of 1253 individual 435w panels on all available roof space of the hospital and maintenance shed, with a total system size of 545kW.

Friendly Society Private Hospital Business Development Manager Stuart Bonnett said the solar system was an investment of more than $1M and was being paid for by the hospital, without any state or federal funding. With the cost savings in electricity, the system will pay for itself in just four years.

“We believe that environmental sustainability is the only way forward, through solar electricity, solar hot water and LED lighting,” Mr Bonnett said.

Mr Bonnett said solar energy was something the hospital had started looking at in the past few years, but it wasn’t until the hospital received news of a 30% increase to its $80,000 per month electricity bill that The Friendlies decided to move forward with the project, with GEM Energy.

“This system will save The Friendlies millions of dollars. As a not-for-profit hospital, that is millions of dollars that go back into services for our patients and this community. We will be able to reduce our impact on the environment at the same time,” he said.

While the system is believed to be the largest ever put on a hospital in Australia, it will still only be enough to power about 25.6% of the hospital’s electricity needs.

“While 25% doesn’t sound significant, it will save the hospital $3.1M in the first 10 years and $6.9M by year 20 years. That kind of money is so important for a regional community,” he said.

The solar panels will cover about 75% of the hospital’s footprint, utilising all suitable roof space. Mr Bonnett said as the hospital grows, all future development will be designed with the ability to incorporate more solar panels.

solar installation Friendly Society Hospital Bundaberg

GEM Energy Australia Senior Solar Consultant Craig Books and Friendly Society Private Hospital Business Development Manager Stuart Bonnett discuss the solar project

In terms of environmental sustainability, electricity usage in the first year will be reduced by 919,900kWh from solar electricity and 229,000kWh from the installation of LED lighting, a total 1,148,000kWh.

As part of the solar installation project, The Friendlies, through SolarArk, will convert all four hot water systems, each with five containers, to solar hot water. In just over 3 years, the hospital’s gas hot water bill will be zero, saving $84,000 each year.

GEM Energy and SolarArk will work in conjunction with the placement of panels and systems.

GEM Energy CEO Jack Hooper said it has taken a substantial amount of time and engineering to get to this point, but he was very excited about this project.

“The Friendlies are a great example of an organisation looking to secure their energy costs and provide a huge carbon off-set,” Mr Hooper said.

“We’ve seen some good systems installed here in Bundaberg and the installation for The Friendlies will be the largest roof top installation in the area.”

“Over the past 12 months in Queensland, we have seen an increase in wholesale energy prices of more than 50% which is now being passed through to large market electricity customers.

“The Friendlies have seen an increase of 30% which has significantly improved the viability of their project and other projects of this scale”.

“Many local business owners understand how much of an impact soaring electricity prices have had on their profitability.

“A good quality solar installation gives them the opportunity to secure their energy costs and improve the financial and environmental sustainability of their business”.

SolarArk QLD State Manager Chris Poulton said with the steep and continual upward trend in local Australian gas prices in conjunction with the commitment by The Friendlies to a significant Solar PV infrastructure, the numbers for return on investment with solar hot water could not be ignored.

“The adopting of a large scale system with The Friendlies commitment to solar electricity has provided the perfect scenario to migrate the hot water generation from the previous gas system over to primarily sun-generated sources,” Mr Poulton said.

“The Friendlies are to be commended for identifying the industry-leading performance advantage and significantly longer life span of SolarArk Evacuated Tube Technology for generating hot water. This project will be the largest hospital-based evacuated tube solar hot water system in the nation.”

“SolarArk is honoured to be chosen to play a part in the betterment of The Friendlies facility and services, as well as the local community of Bundaberg”.

Solar installation facts

  • $1M+ investment
  • 1253 panels, each 435w
  • 660 Evacuated Tubes for Solar hot water
  • 545kW total system size
  • ROI: 4 years for solar electricity, 3.2 for solar hot water
  • $84,000 savings per year for Solar hot water
  • Covering 75% of hospital footprint
  • Supplying 25% of hospital electricity needs
  • Electricity reduction of 1,148,000 kWh in the first year
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