Hospital support group’s bright idea

Trail-blazing League of Friends funds �27,000 solar power system at Seaton Community Hospital

A trail-blazing scheme to generate ‘clean energy’ is helping Seaton Community Hospital support a healthier environment.

It has become the first in the region to install solar panels - thanks to a �27,000 imitative by its League of Friends.

The array will significantly reduce the site’s electrical consumption and carbon footprint - a major step towards curbing its environmental impact.

It is the first solar energy scheme ever financed by a league of friends at any of the 18 hospitals managed by the Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust.

Any incentive payments from the government will be split 50-50 between the trust and the league.

Bob Lowe, deputy estates manager, has led the project for the trust.

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He said: “This is an innovative investment that has been totally instigated and driven by the League of Friends.

“This is the first time in all my years of involvement with support charities that such an offer has been made to the trust.

“To invest in an area that benefits the hospital not only in reduced costs but the environmental impact of the site on the local community is extremely forward-thinking.

“They have seen the bigger picture and everyone is a winner as the installation is expected to generate between 50 and 200kW of energy daily, all of which will be used on the hospital site.”

Local company Rudge Renewables completed the installation ahead of a deadline that ensured the best tariff from the government.

The hospital’s clear southern aspect in Scalwell Lane made it a prime candidate for a solar PV array, and the 80 individual panels will produce 20kW of electrical energy.

It is anticipated that 17,700 kWh (units) of electrical power will be generated each year, while the site’s energy footprint will be cut by 2.5 tonnes of carbon.

There will also be financial benefits, with a projected �1,770 coming off the annual energy bill and repayments of �2,600 each year through the government feed-in tariff.

Mr Lowe said the cost of the scheme was expected to be recouped in seven to 10 years.

He said: “With little or no maintenance, the installation will just enhance the site’s goal of providing local healthcare services in an environmentally-friendly manner.”

Dr Joe Pitt, chairman of the League of Friends, said: “When we came up with the idea of funding solar power for the hospital we were delighted with the very positive response from the trust.

“As a League we always want to help improve patient services at Seaton hospital and this sort of scheme should release funds currently spent on energy bills to instead go to direct patient care.

“We are also aware of our wider responsibility to help reduce the carbon footprint of the hospital.

“We feel it is a model of how the voluntary sector can help the NHS to deliver on those aims, and we hope this model can be copied elsewhere.”

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