Hospitals and CHP – a perfect fit wins awards

By DiarmaidW

By Steve Hodgson

Are there many hospitals in the developed world that don’t rely to some extent on on-site energy supplies from CHP/cogeneration systems? Surely not – the fit between the energy needs of most hospital buildings and the strengths of CHP is particularly good.

Many hospital buildings have relatively high energy loads for heating, hot water and sterilisation; operate around-the-clock, seven days a week; and need guaranteed continuous power for mission-critical functions from operating theatres downwards. The criteria that optimize the economic case for CHP are high, reasonably steady energy loads and continuous facility operation for as many hours of the week or year as possible. And, where capital resources are limited, the CHP industry will often offer a hospital some sort of long-term energy services arrangement, under which the plant is installed at no capital cost and the hospital and CHP provider share the resulting energy cost savings, typically over a 10 to 20 year period.

Add the capability of CHP to also act as a standby power provider and the softer, green and PR advantages of maximizing fuel resource use and minimizing carbon emissions, and the CHP/cogeneration offer is almost too good to be true for the healthcare sector.

So it’s no surprise to see three healthcare buildings or estates among the five winners of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s 2013 ENERGY STAR CHP Awards made two weeks ago. All three winners cited the ability of the CHP system to supply power during grid outages as an essential part of their installation.

In Boston, Massachusetts, the Longwood Medical and Academic Area (LMA), home to five hospitals and several pharmaceutical research centres, has been supplied with steam, chilled water, and electricity by the Medical Area Total Energy Plant (MATEP) for over 25 years. This 46 MW CHP plant was commended for its 75% operating efficiency.

Smaller CHP systems at two New York hospitals: the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center also won awards for superior operating efficiency. The 11 MW system at Montefiore allowed the hospital to operate through hurricanes Irene and Sandy, accepting patients from other hospitals that had been forced to close. Siemens Energy and Solar Turbines were the main equipment suppliers for the three systems.

Healthcare sector CHP has also been winning awards in Europe – systems serving three UK hospitals won or were commended in the recent UK CHP Association Awards. Centrax and Dalkia were the main suppliers.

Steve Hodgson