Yarrawonga Health flicked the switch on the largest solar panel installation of any public hospital in Victoria last Friday.By Fiona Blick
State Health Minister David Davis officially launched the new solar array, installed by local firm BEC Electrical, plus the LED lighting system saying Yarrawonga Health is leading the state and is a shining example of what is to come as “we collectively move towards a more sustainable energy future”.
“We are proud to have delivered $275,000 to help get these energy developments up and running at Yarrawonga Health,” Mr Davis said.
Mr Davis said the 96 kilowatt photovoltaic solar array system comprises 384 individual solar panels and generating approximately 160,000 kilowatts of electricity.
“This means around 15% of Yarrawonga Health’s electricity needs are being met by the sun,” he said.
“The project also involves replacing more than 1,600 lights with more energy efficient ones.
“Together, these two projects alone will help save $50,000 a year for Yarrawonga Health.”
Mr Davis praised the board of Yarrawonga Health and the local community for getting behind this project.
“Yarrawonga is a fantastic town,” he said.
“The local member Tim McCurdy is a fierce advocate locally.
“We want the funding to go directly to the best interests of the patient and not to energy bills and clearly the board and CEO Terry Welch also share this vision.
“I want to congratulate you all for the fantastic outcome of this project.”
Mr Davis believed before the solar installation Yarrawonga Health was paying an additional $32,810 in energy costs due to the federal government’s controversial carbon tax.
“A detailed analysis of energy bills has revealed that all Victorian public hospitals collectively paid $13.5 million extra for energy due to the carbon tax,” Mr Davis said.
“The $32 810 paid by Yarrawonga Health represented 14% of its total energy bill.”
Mr Davis said the carbon tax had a real impact on the budgets of all Victorian health services, diverting money away from patient care.
“The state government has a range of initiatives underway to improve energy efficiency and reduce the carbon intensity of the public healthcare system,” Mr Davis said.
“Despite these efficiency measures, a level of energy will still be required to operate our hospitals safely and this is subject to the carbon price, in effect a tax on health care.”
Yarrawonga Health CEO Terry Welch said there were always expenditure pressures.
"As I have mentioned on a number of occasions we are constantly facing changes and challenges to the revenue and expense lines of our budget,” Mr Welch said. “We have seen significant costs with the utility charges increase for which we are implementing a number of programs to try and mitigate."
Mr Welch said it was the vision of the board that pushed this energy project to completion.
“I believe we are one of the greatest health services in Victoria,” he said.
“BEC Electrical can be very proud of what they have achieved; a local business working on a local project.”
Yarrawonga Health Board Chair Marg Hauser said the hospital is committed to providing the highest possible care and will continue to deliver industry leading projects.
“Yarrawonga Health is continuously developing environmental projects and improvements of which the solar panel and LED lighting project is just one example,” she said.
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