Steve McGregor, group managing director, DMA Group looks at the importance of solar panels in infrastructure projects.

The NHS is responsible for approximately 4% of England’s total carbon footprint and 40% of public sector emissions. It has a crucial role in mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change. Annually, it delivers 17 million inpatient admissions from more than 200 hospital trusts, more than 270 million primary care appointments from nearly 7000 general practices, and prescribes more than 1.1 billion items every year.

Furthermore, research in 2023 found that more than a third of the largest NHS trusts are still unable to state the size of their full carbon footprint, despite it being three years since the national plan for ‘net zero’ was introduced.

In September 2021, our long-time customer, Rye, Winchelsea & District Memorial Hospital, embarked on a transformative initiative aimed at achieving carbon neutrality, thereby aligning with its commitment to sustainable healthcare practices. Commissioned by the Rye Winchelsea and District Memorial Hospital charity, this endeavour sought to mitigate its environmental impact by reducing demand, curbing emissions, and combating global warming.

Central to the hospital's mission was the localisation of medical services, benefiting the community while championing environmental stewardship. The culmination of these efforts materialised in 2023 when the facility proudly attained the distinction of being the UK's inaugural carbon-neutral community hospital, effectively eradicating its carbon footprint.

A pivotal component of this initiative encompassed essential infrastructure enhancements. These included a comprehensive overhaul of the heating system, encompassing thorough cleaning and the installation of new, high-efficiency radiator valves. Additionally, the transition from conventional gas boilers to state-of-the-art electric flow boilers and calorifiers, alongside the replacement of gas-fired kitchen equipment, marked a significant stride towards eliminating fossil fuel dependency.

Moreover, the integration of advanced automated controls and the adoption of energy-efficient LED lighting systems primed the hospital for the incorporation of renewable energy solutions. The subsequent deployment of solar roof panels and storage batteries, generating in excess of 70,000 kilowatt hours annually, underscored the hospital's commitment to sustainable energy practices.

Facilitated by a cutting-edge Building Management System (BMS), the hospital's facilities management team now possesses real-time insights into energy utilisation, enabling proactive identification and resolution of potential operational inefficiencies.

Projections indicate a substantial reduction in energy consumption by the close of 2024, equating to approximately 240,000 kilowatt hours, or a 40% decrease from previous levels. This translates to an annual carbon reduction of approximately 260 tonnes, akin to the environmental benefit of planting approximately 4,300 trees. With its commitment to achieving net-zero status, the hospital remains dedicated to innovation and sustainable growth.

Beyond energy efficiency enhancements, modernisation initiatives have also prioritised staff and patient welfare. Measures such as the installation of solar blinds to mitigate glare, the introduction of air-conditioning units to safeguard equipment integrity, and enhancements to cold-water systems underscore the hospital's holistic approach to operational excellence and environmental responsibility.

As the hospital continues on its net-zero journey, it remains steadfast in its pursuit of continuous improvement, heralding a future characterised by responsibility, resilience, and environmental sustainability.