Downshire hospital case study

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Courtesy of Imperative Energy Ltd (IEL)

Key Facts

  • Client: National Health Service (NHS)
  • Boiler: Schmid 1.65MW wood pellet boiler
  • Grate type: underfeed stoker boiler
  • Ash removal: automatic undergrate ash removal and multicyclone
  • Fuel: CEN/TS 14961 wood pellets
  • Installer: Central Group Services

Downshire Hospital , Leading the Public Sector in Carbon Reduction

Like all public sector organisations throughout the United Kingdom, the Downshire Hospital in Northern Ireland has been challenged in recent times by two very substantial imperatives for its future prosperity:

1. The Financial Imperative: how to plan and control the annual operating costs of the hospital in a time of rapidly volatile and escalating energy prices. Being totally dependent on imported oil for its heating requirements, the Trust was severely exposed to the sharp rises in oil prices during 2007-2008.

2. The Regulatory Imperative: how to reduce the annual carbon emissions produced by the hospital in line with impending CRC legislation. As part of the NHS, the Trust is subject to the national targets set by the UK Government to ensure that all public buildings are carbon neutral by 2015 and is obliged to take action or face financial penalties.

In keeping with its strong track record of embracing new practices and processes that drive continuous improvement (they were the first Trust to achieve the ISO1401 Environmental standard over ten years ago), the Trust’s Estate Manager, Mr Robert Spence, initiated a major project in mid-2007 to fundamentally change the make-up of the hospital’s energy source from fossil fuels to one based on renewable energy.

As heating is one of the Trust’s main drivers of its energy costs and its carbon footprint, the requirement for a Renewable Heat solution was paramount. Biomass was the obvious answer.

The first stage of the project was to secure the support of the Trust. Having received the backing of the Trust’s Board, Mr Spence sought and was granted a financial contribution from the Central Energy Efficiency Funds through the Department for Finance and Personnel.

Once the capital was available for the project, consulting engineering firm White Young Green was appointed to design the system. A tender process was then put in place and managed by the Central Procurement Directorate of Northern Ireland. The tender was won by a team comprising of Imperative Energy Ltd and the Solv Group.

The renewable energy project at the Downshire Hospital was ambitious in that it sought to establish a new energy plant on site that would be primarily fuelled by locally-sourced biomass material - a completely sustainable and carbon neutral energy source - and that, given the size of the hospital estate, would constitute the largest biomass installation within the public sector anywhere in the UK or Ireland.

In September 2008, a 1.65MW biomass boiler was installed at the hospital to provide the base load demand for the hospital site’s district heating system. The new Down Acute Hospital is being constructed at the same site and it will also benefit from the new on-site renewable energy system.

The biomass boiler, which was manufactured in Switzerland by Schmid AG, was supplied and installed by Imperative Energy Ltd who have an exclusive partnership with Schmid for the UK and Ireland.

The new biomass energy system is expected to displace 1.5 million litres of oil per annum for the Trust. This will amount to savings of over £275,000 per annum which will pay back the capital expenditure on the project in just over 1 year.

In terms of environmental impact, the new biomass energy system will reduce carbon emissions from the site by almost 1,000 tonnes per annum, making an enormous contribution to the Trust’s environmental targets.

This project clearly demonstrates how all other hospitals, as well as large public and private buildings, can simply and cost effectively meet the new Carbon Reduction Commitments being imposed from April 2010 while simultaneously bringing affordability and stability to their annual energy costs.

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