Energy U-turn is an embarrassment for hospital

The Royal Berkshire Hospital was all set to install an environmental scheme which would have helped the building generate electricity from solar power and wind. However the hospital have now had to cancel the project as it was decided it was too expensive.

The original proposal was to spend £180,000 cladding the endoscopy and maternity departments with solar PV panels and installing wind turbines above the Craven Road entrance as part of an overall £3.5 million project. Now though the only technology to be installed will be a new thermal power plant which uses a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) unit.

"It isn’t financially viable and at this point in time it doesn’t show itself the right thing to do" the hospital estates and facilities manager Phillip Holmes told the council of governors recently. "Solar panels look great in the newspapers and they sound great but they don’t pay for themselves" he added.

The NHS trust is working with energy company Dalkia PLC to try and reduce the hospital's carbon footprint by 26%, which is around 4,000 tonnes of carbon per year, as well as slashing energy bills by between £500,000 and £1 million. The trust believes it can recoup the costs within seven years while beating carbon reduction targets by cutting its 2007 carbon emissions by 10% by 2015. The CHP unit will replace a redundant boiler and enable the building to generate 60% of its electricity demand.

A planning application for the project was submitted in June and building is hoped to start sometime this month with a view to completing the work in March. The first phase will be finished next month it is hoped, with 1,600 light fittings consisting of bulbs that are 50% more efficient thereby saving 223 tonnes of carbon per year.

"This is the fastest project for the construction and tendering of CHP in the NHS" said Mr Holmes. "They have delivered it and done really well and it enables us to start banking the benefits."

The initial plans were developed with the help of consultants from the National Carbon Energy Fund (CEF). "All professional services were provided without cost to us" said spokeswoman Jo Barrett following the meeting with the governors, "therefore no loss was incurred by deciding against having the solar panels installed."

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