How Combined Heat and Power Can Keep Hospitals, Universities and Other Facilities Running During Bad Weather – Oil, Gas & Power
As we continue to monitor the 2022 hurricane season and learn more about the impact of Hurricane Ian, we urge hospitals, universities, and all kinds of power-consuming facilities along the East Coast to prepare for future major storm seasons. Power outages in Florida from Hurricane Ian affected two million customers as the storm moved inland. As facilities in Florida begin to rebuild thereafter, it is essential to remember that high winds, flooding, minor hurricanes, tropical storms, summer thunderstorms, as well as ice storms or snow during the winter months, can cause power outages that threaten a facility’s ability to stay online and a hospital’s ability to safely and effectively care for patients. Relying solely on grid electricity and backup generators to power and cool a facility is becoming a greater risk as weather conditions have become less and less predictable and, at times, more severe.
This is just one of the reasons many facilities are turning to combined heat and power (CHP) as a power generation solution. Advances in technology, availability and affordability of fuel sources, and a growing demand for sustainability are driving greater interest in cogeneration than ever before. Today, schools and universities, hospitals, assisted living facilities, retirement communities, and many other facilities consuming electricity on a large and small scale are seeing the benefits of cogeneration. Rather than buying all their electricity from a local utility or competing electricity provider, facilities can now use cogeneration, also known as cogeneration, to generate some or all of their own electricity. reliable on site.
In a traditional electrical system approach, facilities rely on grid-supplied electricity to power a given facility and a separate boiler to generate steam used to heat the site or provide other steam-related services . Cogeneration systems, however, integrate these functions by using low-cost natural gas or other fuels to power an engine and create electricity for the facility. Excess thermal energy, a by-product of electricity generation, is captured and used, sometimes in conjunction with updated modern boilers, to heat or cool the facility, with some facilities even generating revenue by selling heat. additional excess electricity to the premises. utility under what is called “net metering”.
The key to cogeneration systems is greater energy and cost reliability
In many facilities, a power outage disrupts operations and reduces productivity. In hospitals and other healthcare facilities, this puts the lives of patients at risk. By operating on a micro-grid, cogeneration facilities have greater resilience against hurricanes, severe storms, and other natural disasters that create grid-level outages and brownouts. Conversely, underground gas pipelines that often feed cogeneration systems are less susceptible to damage from high winds and extreme weather conditions.
Additionally, cogeneration systems give facilities more predictable long-term energy costs and can help avoid fluctuations in market prices for electricity. Cogeneration systems also provide the opportunity to use low-cost fuels efficiently, allowing this reduced energy consumption to become a source of revenue through net metering.
Beyond reliability, CHP systems should be the ideal solution for facilities with aging infrastructure.
For many installations requiring infrastructure upgrades, the benefits of cogeneration are known, but the limitations of the technology previously made it unsuitable for small installations due to capital expenditure and expected return on investment (ROI). This is no longer the case. Technological advances make cogeneration systems the ideal solution for both small and large installations, especially with the potential damage that inclement weather can cause to those with outdated infrastructure or in remote areas with limited access points.
According to some Department of Energy estimates, most cogeneration system development costs can be recovered in 10 years, and often much sooner. There are opportunities to form long-term partnerships with organizations to cover initial costs, and a number of tax incentives and rebates are often available. That said, navigating new partnerships, regulatory concerns, and cost projections can be complex. It takes the right partner to help businesses explore these options and make the best decision for their unique facility needs.
Cogeneration systems also allow facilities to reduce their carbon footprint and their impact on climate change.
Many organizations are more focused than ever on reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, and cogeneration systems offer a positive step towards sustainability. There is also an opportunity to integrate renewable energy sources, including solar power and battery storage, into cogeneration systems. Cogeneration projects can also incorporate modern energy controls and more efficient lighting as components of a comprehensive package of energy services. The Department of Energy also estimates that cogeneration systems can avoid up to 60% of carbon dioxide emissions between 2006 and 2030.
Finding the right cogeneration approach
For organizations looking to protect themselves from the elements and upgrade their energy system, there are more options for deploying cogeneration systems than ever before. Facilities have the option to design and build the system themselves, contract with a third-party developer, work with a utility, or even partner with other like-minded building owners nearby to create a microgrid.
To learn more about introducing a CHP system to your facility, listen to our interview with Al Neuner, Vice President of Facilities Operations at Geisinger Health System on the Alternative Power Plays podcast. Mr. Neuner is a pioneer in the development of cogeneration systems, having done so at Geisinger’s flagship hospital and healthcare site in central Pennsylvania in the late 1990s. Since then, the system has provided Geisinger with reliable, consistent power in addition to millions in energy savings.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.