Practices are increasingly looking for ways to be environmentally friendly while also trying to save money.
Bath Dr Patrick Eavis has the largest solar roof of its kind on his premises and says his father Michael Eavis, the founder of the Glastonbury Festival, inspired him and his partners at the Oldfield Surgery to install it.
The solar roof has 128 photovoltaic (PV) panels and is similar to the one Dr Eavis's father fitted to his barn in Somerset. Designed to generate almost 20,000 kilowatt (KW) hours of electricity a year, the Oldfield Surgery’s system saves nearly 12 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
A visual display near the reception desk shows how much power the system is producing and the carbon saved.
Financing the panels
The six Oldfield partners took out a loan from Lombard Finance to pay for the £90,000 solar panel installation. The annual repayments are covered by the income from the feed-in tariff, which is the money paid by the government to homeowners, businesses and organisations if they generate their own electricity.
The installation, which needed planning permission because the surgery is a listed building, took a few days and did not disrupt services. ‘The system has worked very well, better than anticipated over the year, and is incredibly low maintenance,’ Dr Eavis says. ‘My father is a great advocate for solar energy and after seeing the success of his solar PV I contacted Solarsense, who installed his system.’
He says contributing to the environment is good and that ‘if we all play our part’ this will make a huge difference.
‘I hope what we have done at our surgery will encourage others to consider renewable energy. It’s a win-win situation because it brings down energy costs and helps the environment.’
Feed-in Tariffs savings
Under the government's Feed-in Tariffs (FITs) scheme the electricity supplier of your choice will pay you for each kilowatt of electricity you generate. If you generate electricity that you don't use yourself, you can 'export' it back to the grid and get an additional payment to the above.
The Energy Saving Trust has a FITs calculator on its website which calculates prospective savings. The tariff covers a number of different technologies, including solar panels, wind turbines, anaerobic digestion (recycling food waste and agricultural waste into renewable fuel), as well as combined heat and power and hydroelectricity.
Dr Eavis, who is now having solar thermal panels for heating water installed on the roof of his home in Bath, explains: ‘We chose a large PV system because we wanted to maximise the environmental and financial benefits. There was an obvious tax advantage. Because we are self-employed, we could write off the capital cost against tax in the first year following installation.’
Desirable to be sustainable
RCGP sustainability lead and Wiltshire GP Dr Tim Ballard says: ‘Putting solar panels on the roof is a good way of reducing energy bills.
‘Being sustainable has become desirable and practices are embracing it. The small things are the most cost effective and give practices the fastest return, such as insulation.' He adds that a really good way of keeping costs down is installing an energy meter, which some energy companies give away for free.
‘We have one which sits on the practice manager’s desk and we find it a really effective way to get people to be energy conscious.’
Dr Ballad says that some practices can be reluctant to tie up funds in big capital expenditure, such as buying solar panels, but says: ‘I would advise GPs to speak to their accountant before writing it off.’
Bob Senior, director of medical services at accountants RSM Tenon, says many GP practices have asked him for advice on installing solar panels. ‘It makes a lot of commercial sense,’ he says.
‘Normally the costs are not too big and I haven’t heard any instances where the banks are not prepared to lend. This is slightly uncharted territory as we do not know if it will cause problems in the long term such as affecting the property’s valuation.'Useful links