Vet’s diary: Vets go green to harness the power of the sun

ALNORTHUMBRIA Vets have gone green, and not just in sympathy with our friendly frog Kermit and the release of the latest Muppet movie.

Over the years, this diary has highlighted a number of areas where climate change seems to have had a significant impact on our working lives. Insect-born diseases such as blue tongue, for instance, that have migrated north from the Mediterranean region and parasitic problems like liver fluke, once confined to the wetter west but now a regular feature in the east.

Whatever your point of view, it is difficult to argue that the world’s climate isn’t changing rapidly and the evidence that mankind is playing a significant role in driving that change is compelling.

Like any responsible business, we have done our best in terms of recycling waste materials. Of course, there are specific restrictive regulations with much of what gets left behind being classed as clinical waste, but most of the packaging (and there always seems to be an awful lot of packaging!) can go through the usual recycling channels. Though every little helps, our efforts seemed to be a drop in the ocean, particularly as we are inevitably high energy users with dog and cat wards requiring heating 24/7 and vets driving many miles to reach their rural farm patients.

The last few months have, however, seen us move into a new and more significant green adventure with the installation of solar panels at all of the surgeries across the county that are suitable. Even though we were acutely aware of our carbon footprint, when the idea of solar panels was first mooted we were somewhat sceptical that there is sufficient sunlight in Northumberland to make them viable.

The technological advances in this area have been enormous and the latest solar panels are very efficient, this, coupled with the incentive of the government feed in tariffs makes the investment stack up financially. Therefore, even without the influence of a green conscience it wasn’t a difficult decision to proceed.

As expected, the process hasn’t been entirely straight-forward, even without the Government’s well-publicised efforts to confuse the whole issue. Being commercial premises, our surgeries required planning consent to install the panels – an administrative obstacle not necessary for domestic residences.

Local firm Hadrian Electrical Engineering has seen the project through and their sound advice and excellent quality of work has made the installation a completely painless process.

Now that the panels are in situ, it is still a novelty to look at the meter on a daily basis to see how much power they are generating. There has even been a suggestion of an inter-branch sunshine competition, obviously judged on the basis of panel output. You will hear it here first if it is sunnier in Wooler than Rothbury, Amble or Morpeth.

There is no doubt that renewable energy is going to play an important role in the future. Just this morning I was listening to scientist Tony Ryan on the radio who proclaimed that if we could just harvest the total energy hitting the earth from the sun for one hour per year it would supply all of our energy requirements.

We’re a way off that but at Alnorthumbria Vets, we are doing our bit.