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WOLVERHAMPTON: Work begins on city hospital solar farm

WOLVERHAMPTON: Work begins on city hospital solar farm

PIC: City of Wolverhampton Council;

Work has begun on a solar farm the size of 22 football pitches that will be used to help power Wolverhampton’s main hospital, saving health bosses  £15m to £20m over the next 20 years.

The pioneering facility is being constructed on a former landfill site at Bowman’s Harbour in Wednesfield, and will be used to produce energy for New Cross Hospital.

Due to be completed and operational by spring next year, the scheme will see the hospital becoming the first in the UK to utilise and operate its own solar farm providing renewable energy.

Most of the site on Planetary Road, which for many years was plagued by fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour, will be converted into 11.5 hectares of solar panels, infrastructure and an access road.

The farm – a joint project by the City of Wolverhampton Council and the NHS Trust – will produce 6.9MWp of sustainable solar energy, estimated to power the hospital for around 288 days a year.

Since declaring a Climate Emergency in July 2019, the council has been supporting its partners towards making Wolverhampton carbon zero by 2041.

Money saved by the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust will be put back into providing frontline healthcare services.

Cllr Steve Evans (Lab. Fallings Park), cabinet member for city environment and climate change, said: “The start of works on this pioneering solar farm demonstrates our commitment to climate change which is critical to protect our planet for generations to come.

“I’m pleased to see the council supporting the local hospital in achieving its ambitions to reduce carbon emissions in the city.

“During the last year, as part of its carbon reduction strategy, the council has converted thousands of streetlights to low energy LEDs, become the first place in the Black Country to plant a Tiny Forest, has secured funding to plant 20,000 new trees across the city in the New Year, created new cycle routes, and are bringing in new electric fleet vehicles for the council and Wolverhampton Homes.

“The new solar farm development will certainly have a positive impact in making Wolverhampton a greener city,” he added.

Existing green energy sources already in use at the hospital, including harnessing heat from the waste incinerator, will provide additional power but it is hoped the majority will come from solar.

The farm will link to the hospital via an underground cable, known as a private wire, stretching the half-mile distance between the two sites.

A public consultation carried out to gather feedback on climate change revealed that 82 per cent of residents in the city said they would welcome solar farms here.

The authority’s planning agents Arcadis said: “The proposals present an exciting opportunity to contribute significantly towards the energy demands of New Cross Hospital, utilising green technology to provide clean, carbon zero and renewable energy.

“In this particular case it’s a good use of otherwise very difficult to use land and something that will cut the hospital’s costs and cut their emissions quite significantly.

“It’s a very good example of how different organisations who maybe until now just had a relationship of paying the rates and getting the bins collected need to think differently about how they can join together to work in a shared purpose which is net zero.”

Cllr Evans was joined by a number of partnership members at a sod-cutting ceremony to mark the beginning of work on the site.

Words: Joe Sweeney, Local Democracy Reporter

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