The more frequent and severe super storms and other extreme weather events that rage through our region (and beyond) spare nothing and no one. That means that hospitals, like any other facility, can lose power and become victims of battering high winds and storm surges.
Hospitals must keep operating in times of weather emergencies. In fact, when storms strike, there are more medical emergencies and health problems.
Hospital executives across the Commonwealth are increasingly looking at sustainable and resilient energy solutions, such as combined heat and power (CHP) – also called cogeneration systems – to ensure that their facilities remain operating during power outages.
In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, which left more than 8 million customers without electricity, many New York and New Jersey hospitals lost power and needed to send patients to other facilities. To make matters worse, badly damaged nursing homes and eldercare facilities inundated hospitals with their many high-need residents. Hospitals that had planned ahead and were equipped with CHP systems were able to take care of these patients in spite of grid failure. The systems provided ample power until the electrical grid stabilized.
Massachusetts health care facilities are poised to become national leaders in CHP adoption. At least 13 Massachusetts facilities currently have these systems, including the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown, the Longwood Medical Area, the 426-kilowatt biomass-fired system at the Cooley Dickinson Memorial Hospital in Northampton and the newly upgraded 17.5-megawatt system at the UMass Medical Campus in Worcester.
Not only does CHP provide sustainable energy solutions, it reduces pollution – greenhouse gases, mercury, NOx and SOx – and saves money over the life of the system.
A recent report released by Health Care Without Harm and the Boston Green Ribbon Commission, “Powering the Future of Healthcare-Financial & Operational Resilience: A CHP Guide for Massachusetts Hospital Decision Makers,” noted that a hospital employing a 1-megawatt CHP system can garner an annual net positive cash flow of $700,000. These savings take into account generous utility incentives through Mass Save® and Massachusetts state incentives from the Department of Energy Resources (DOER).
Combined heat and power systems can make sense from a financial and sustainability perspective. For example, the U.S. Department of Energy has estimated that the 47.5-megawatt CHP system at Boston’s Longwood Medical Area has reduced total fuel consumption by 24 percent, leading to an estimated reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 117,500 tons of CO2 annually. Without the greenhouse gas savings from the Longwood facility, Boston’s community-wide greenhouse gas emissions would be roughly 2 percent higher annually, making it more difficult for Boston to achieve its Climate Action Plan goals.
“Powering the Future of Healthcare…” is a primer to help hospital executives weigh CHP technologies and financial considerations to facilitate informed investment decisions.
Saving money on energy allows hospitals to care for more patients more effectively, and to develop additional energy efficient initiatives. Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions though greater energy efficiency and increased disaster resilience in the face of climate change make up important bonuses. This is why CHP is one of the most promising options in the U.S. energy efficiency portfolio, and in most cases a great fit for healthcare.
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