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Health boards to receive additional funding to complete £17m programme of solar PV and energy efficiency schemes

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Three health boards will receive more than £10m in Welsh Government funding this year and next, to install new solar energy measures and help them improve energy efficiency across their estates, resulting in carbon and financial savings.

This investment builds on £2m provided last year, as part of a larger £17m programme.

The funding – repayable on an Invest to Save basis – will support energy projects for Swansea University Health Board, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and the Hywel Dda University Health Board.

The funding includes £2m in Covid recovery funds, earmarked for an ambitious 4MW solar farm project for SBUHB, which will help to power Morriston Hospital in Swansea.

Combined with an ongoing £7.7m Re:fit programme, the solar farm will save the health board more than £1.6m per year on energy bills.

Subject to planning permission, the proposed solar farm will be situated at Brynwhillach Farm and linked to Morriston Hospital by a 3km long private wire.

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The decision to grant the funds was announced Wednesday, December 2, by the Minister for Health and Social Service; the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs and the Minister for Finance and Trefnydd.

The energy projects to be backed by the funding are:

Swansea Bay University Health Board

  • More than £5.7m for 2020-21, as part of a larger £7.7m programme. The Welsh Government funded the first phase of the project with £2m in 2019/20, allowing the health board to complete energy efficiency measures, including upgrades to LED lighting which are already generating savings.
  • To supplement the £2m in Covid recovery funds, a further £3.8m will allow the health board to complete the solar farm by the end of 2022.

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board

  • A further £600k, will support the health board, to expand work to improve energy efficiency across its estate. This will be in addition to £1.4m of funding agreed earlier this year.

Hywel Dda University Health Board

  • £1.75m to allow the Health Board to install solar panels on buildings across its estate, as well as other energy efficiency measures, with £250k provided this year and, £1.5m provided next year.

Each of the health boards has worked with the Welsh Government Energy Service – which provides advice and support on energy to communities and public bodies – to identify opportunities to improve their energy efficiency and increase the use of renewable energy across their estates.

Vaughan Gething, the Minister for Health and Social Services, said: “Our NHS has been at the forefront of Wales’ response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the importance of the sustainability and strength of the services provided by our hospitals cannot be over-stated.

“Wherever possible, we want to help our health boards to see where savings can be made, whilst at the same time supporting them to maintain their vital services. Measures such as these which will help our hospitals to lessen their energy use are hugely important and I am pleased my fellow Ministers and I have been able to announce these funds today.”

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Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said: “As we look towards making Wales a carbon-neutral nation, we want to do everything we can to support public bodies, such as health boards, to minimise their carbon output through efficiency measures and to use renewable options wherever possible.

“I would like to thank each of the health boards for the work they have already undertaken in this respect; and would especially like to thank Swansea Bay University Health Board for their ambition, as they work towards creating a new solar farm, which will help power Morriston Hospital.”

Rebecca Evans, the Minister for Finance and Trefnydd, said: “We are determined to keep Wales moving forward and will continue to be guided by our values as we build a recovery together. This investment is an important part of our £320m Covid reconstruction package which is dedicated to supporting jobs and protecting the future of our public services and our planet.”

Emma Wollett, Chair of Swansea Bay University Health Board, said: “Our health board takes seriously our responsibilities to future generations by reducing our environmental impact and in particular cutting our carbon footprint.

“I’m especially delighted to see the hard work and commitment of our dedicated estates staff being rewarded in being the first health board in Wales to go green in such a pioneering yet practical way.

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“Cutting our carbon footprint and cutting costs is a win-win for the health board, our patients and taxpayers.”

(Lead image: Pixabay on Pexels.com)


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Carmarthenshire

Keep your distance message as Portuguese Man o’ Wars wash ashore

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Beach walkers are being advised to keep clear of Portuguese Man o’ Wars that are being reported washed ashore along the Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire coast.

The Man o’ War is made up of a colony of organisms working together, and often mistaken for a jellyfish.

For humans and dogs a Man o’ War sting can be extremely painful and dead Man o’ Wars can still deliver a sting.

Pembrokeshire County Council’s Beaches Officer Myrddin Dennis, said: “It’s not unusual for Man o’ Wars to wash up on the Pembrokeshire shore and we are receiving calls about them from around our coastline.

“Our advice would be to keep your distance and not to touch them.  Please also keep your dogs on leads so they don’t get too close.”

(Lead image: Pembrokeshire Council)

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Environment

Professor becomes clean air champion for Wales

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A Swansea University expert has been named as one of the UK’s latest clean air champions.

Paul Lewis, Professor Emeritus at Swansea University Medical School, has a research background in the environmental impacts on respiratory health.

He is an expert member on the Welsh Government Clean Air Advisory Panel, helping advise on fine-particulate targets in readiness for a new Clean Air Act in Wales. 

He is also a member of the Wales Air Quality Direction Independent Review Panel and the Domestic Solid Fuel Burning in Wales, Task and Finish Group. 

Professor Lewis’s new role will see him joining the existing national Clean Air Champions  UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) Clean Air Programme. 

Professor Lewis said he was delighted at his appointment: “The role will allow me to engage with key stakeholders from academia, industry, government, the NHS and third sector right across Wales to help develop new solutions and policies to reduce air pollution and the impacts on our health and wellbeing.” 

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The Clean Air Programme is a £42.5 million investment that supports high quality research and innovation to develop practical solutions for today’s air quality issues and equip the UK to proactively tackle future air quality challenges. 

Professor Lewis and his fellow champions act as the central point for air quality research in their respective regions and will work to increase collaboration and impact across and beyond the programme. 

They will engage with researchers funded by the Clean Air Programme to explore ways of promoting knowledge exchange with relevant research users such as local businesses, industry health professionals, local authorities and the public. 

They will also gather intelligence on new local research, policy, and industry developments and contribute new ideas to enhance the impact of the programme.

(Lead image: Swansea University)

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Environment

City parks flying the green flag for excellence

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The lake at Brynmill Park

Six of Swansea’s main parks have once again been awarded green flag status, recognising the vital role they play in boosting residents’ wellbeing and improving the natural environment.

The Green Flag Award programme is delivered in Wales by environmental charity Keep Wales Tidy, with support from Welsh Government. Sites are judged against eight strict criteria, including biodiversity, cleanliness, environmental management and community involvement.

In Swansea, the Council’s Clyne Gardens, Singleton Botanical Gardens, Brynmill Park, Parc Llewelyn, Cwmdonkin Park and Victoria Park have all gained the prestigious flag status.

Two more green flags have been awarded to Penllergare Trust for their efforts at Penllergare Valley Woods and Swansea University has received recognition for Singleton Campus.

Mark Thomas, Cabinet Member for Environment Enhancement and Infrastructure Management, said: “Once again, our parks and cleansing teams have had their commitment to keeping our much loved parks in wonderful condition rewarded. It’s also important to recognise our council staff have achieved this during the pandemic making this achievement even more special.

“Retaining green flag status is important to the council in terms of making a wider statement on our commitment to ensure the public and visitors to the city have excellent green spaces they can visit and enjoy what we have to offer.

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“I’m also pleased to see a large number of community gardens also get recognition for what they offer residents. This is largely down to community groups and volunteers who take it upon themselves to look after these green spaces and make sure that wherever you live in Swansea, there is certain to be somewhere nearby that families can visit.”

A total of 13 ‘community awards’ have also been given to smaller community based gardens and green spaces, including two new winners – Clydach Community Garden and Blaenymaes Community Garden.

Julie James, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Climate Change, said: “Green spaces are vital for mental and physical well-being and throughout the pandemic we have seen how important these spaces have been for local communities. 

 “Wales still holds more than a third of the UK’s Green Flag community sites and it is fantastic to see more places in Wales receiving Green Flag Award and Green Flag Community Award. 

 “These landscapes play a vital role in delivering rich ecosystems and vibrant and resilient communities, and I congratulate all of the sites for providing excellent, year-round facilities and events for people in Wales.”

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 Lucy Prisk, Green Flag Coordinator at Keep Wales Tidy said: “The pandemic showed us just how important high-quality parks and green spaces are to our communities. With more visitors than ever enjoying our green spaces, I’d like to congratulate the hard work of staff and volunteers who have maintained excellent standards at these sites.”

Lead Image: The lake at Brynmill Park (Image: Swansea Council)

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