National first for hospital as The Friendlies ensures environmental sustainability with solar electricity and hot water


In what is believed to be the largest solar energy system by a hospital in Australia will be installed at the Friendly Society Private Hospital over the next three months.

The project will see the installation of 1,253 individual panels on all available roof space of the hospital and maintenance shed, with a total system size of 545 kilowatts.

Friendly Society Private Hospital (The Friendlies) Business Development Manager, Stuart Bonnett said the solar energy system was an investment of more than $1 million, 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 a system the hospital had investigated in recent years, but a predicted 30 percent increase in electricity costs was a catalyst for moving forward with the project.

“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 the community. We will be able to reduce our impact on the environment at the same time,” said Mr Bonnett.

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 percent of the hospital’s electricity needs.

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

The solar panels will cover about 75 percent of the hospital’s footprint, using 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.

In terms of environmental sustainability, electricity usage in the first year will be reduced by 919,900kWh from the 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 three 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.

“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,” said Mr Hooper.

SolarArk Queensland State Manager, Chris Poulton said with the steep and continual upward trend in local Australian gas prices, 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 from the previous gas system over to primarily sun-generated sources.

“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,” Mr Poulton said.


Solar installation facts:

  • $1 million+ 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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