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Solar farm extension and new battery gives Morriston Hospital even more power and savings

A solar farm

A giant battery which can store the sun’s power to use after dark is set to take Morriston Hospital’s trail-blazing solar farm to the next level.

The solar farm – which was the first of its kind in the UK to directly power a hospital – is having a 1MW extension and a special battery which will be able to store any excess solar power generated on the brightest days, for use after the sun sets.

Image shows solar panels surrounded by a building area The extension and battery are expected to generate a third of Morriston Hospital’s power and make an additional annual saving of around £325k to the £900,000 already being saved each year on electricity costs.

Until now, the solar farm has provided around a quarter of the hospital’s electricity needs.

PICTURED: Initial work for the installation of the additional solar panels are already underway.

This latest phase is expected to be fully operational by April 2024.

The additional 1MW will increase the overall generation of power to 5MW - an extra 1,000,000 kWh per year - taking the total expected annual generation to 5m kWh.

The total demand for the hospital is close to 15m kWh per year. To give further perspective, an average three-bedroom house would use just 2,700 kWh per year.

It is the first solar farm in the UK to directly power a hospital, and has already delivered a cost-avoidance of £1.8m in electricity bills since being switched on two years ago by generating its own power instead of purchasing it from the grid.

Des Keighan, Assistant Director of Estates, said: “The solar farm has been a huge success in the two years it has been operational, and the savings in finances and energy prove that.

“As a healthcare provider it’s important we respond to our obligation to protect health, the environment and public finances.

Solar farm seen from above “Those two factors are really important. Our savings coincide with the rising costs of electricity, and in terms of carbon emissions it is at a time when it’s more important than ever to look after our environment.

“As a health board, we are determined to continue reducing our carbon footprint, and the solar farm has helped us enormously in that respect.

“Now we are building on our success with the new extension and battery, which will continue to maximise our power supply and financial and energy savings."

PICTURED: More than 11,800 solar panels will make up the site following the new development.

The facility, based in nearby Brynwhilach Farm, has also reduced the health board’s carbon footprint since October 2021, with a saving of 1,933 tonnes C02e – the equivalent in miles of 521 flights from Cardiff Airport to Sydney - underlining its impact from an environmental perspective.

Beverley Radford, Estates Programme Manager, said: "The combined effect of both of these systems will be to further reduce reliance on grid electricity at Morriston with a corresponding additional saving of around £325k per year plus helping to insulate the health board from volatile and generally increasing future energy costs.

“We saw unprecedented swings in electricity prices and energy prices generally caused by global geopolitical factors outside of our control in 2022 and this year. It was this backdrop of spiralling energy prices which led to the increase in generation capacity and the addition of the battery to our solar farm together with the health board's commitment to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2030.

“During this time, there were occasions when the solar generated more power than the hospital needed, so the electricity was sold back to the grid. The price of that has doubled within two years, which has impacted on the viability of the farm and is one of the reasons it is possible now to expand the farm.

Image shows an area of concrete “We had also planned ahead for a potential extension on the site, which means no additional cabling works along the route have been required.”

The solar farm initially cost £5.7m, with this extension costing £3.6m – repayable over 11 years - which has been funded by an invest to save grant from Welsh Government's Wales Funding Programme.

PICTURED: The groundwork for the storage of the new battery is at an advanced stage.

Work is already in progress, with over 1,800 new panels being constructed, taking the total to 11,836.

The extension will be completed towards the end of February with the extension and battery expected to be fully operational in April.

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