SOLAR SYSTEM: Business development manager Stuart Bonnett with artwork depicting the new solar panel array on the roof of the Friendly Society Private Hospital.
SOLAR SYSTEM: Business development manager Stuart Bonnett with artwork depicting the new solar panel array on the roof of the Friendly Society Private Hospital. Mike Knott BUN300517SOLAR1

Shock electricity bill forces hospital to go solar power

THE Friendly Society Private Hospital will spend more than $1 million to install the largest solar system ever seen on an Australian hospital saving it millions of dollars on its energy bill.

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, the largest rooftop installation in Bundaberg.

The hospital's business development manager Stuart Bonnett said The Friendlies had been investigating solar as an option for the past 12 months.

But in January the hospital found out it would be hit with a 30% increase to its $80,000 a month electricity bill, leaving it with no other option but to go solar.

"The cost of energy is going up so we had been doing some research and found it was a worthwhile exercise to implement solar," Mr Bonnett said.

"But with that 30% increase it made it an imperative to fast-track the project.

"Every dollar we can save on our energy is another dollar we can put towards improving the the hospital."

Mr Bonnett said the savings would be put towards the hospital's expansion plans in cardiology and oncology services.

With the cost savings in electricity, the system will pay for itself in just four years as it powers about 25.6% of the hospital's electricity needs.

"While 25% doesn't sound significant, it will save the hospital $3.1 million in the first 10 years and $6.9 million by year 20 years," Mr Bonnett said.

The solar panels will cover about 75% of the hospital's footprint and any future development will be designed to incorporate more solar panels.

As part of the solar installation project, The Friendlies, through SolarArk, will convert all four hot waters systems, each with five containers, to solar hot water.

In about three years, the hospital's gas hot water bill will be zero, saving $84,000 each year.

Installation will begin within the next three months.

SolarArk and GEM Energy will work together with The Friendlies to build the million-dollar energy system.

GEM Energy chief executive Jack Hooper said it had taken a substantial amount of time and engineering to get to this point, but he was very excited about the 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 rooftop installation in the area.

Mr Hooper said a good quality solar installation gave the hospital the opportunity to secure its energy costs and improve the financial and environment sustainability of its business.

SolarArk Queensland state manager Chris Poulton said the Friendlies' commitment to solar electricity had provided the perfect scenario to migrate the hot water generation from the previous gas system over to primarily sun-generated sources.

"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," Mr Poulton said.

"This project will be the largest hospital-based evacuated tube solar hot water system in the nation