Saving money in hospital electrical distribution systems


Saving money with co-generative demand-side management

In the past, a hospital (typically equipped with a Level 1 generator) was a perfect candidate for peak shaving agreements with a utility. However, this has become more challenging within the last two years with the advent of the EPA’s Tier IV requirements for the generators used in this application. The premium for upgrading or ordering a generator to meet Tier IV requirements is typically not cost effective in the areas of the U.S. where electricity is relatively inexpensive. 

However, the abundance of natural gas provides a new opportunity for many existing hospitals that need more emergency power and want to shave utility demand charges and/or enter into a formal peak shaving agreement with the utility. Natural-gas-fired turbines provide U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-compliant emergency power solutions. The start time for a turbine precludes it from being a life safety generator. However, this technology has the potential to be a triple-bottom-line winner by providing:

  • Peak shaving and/or demand-side management of the electrical load
  • Optional standby power for systems that the hospital needs to run in a prolonged outage
  • Co-generative heat that can be harvested for hot water systems within the hospital. 


The utility bills and the facility agreement is really the starting point for determining whether this money saving option is viable. Several factors must be present for this to be a successful design:

  • Access to natural gas infrastructure
  • A significant portion of the electrical bill must be due to a demand charge. This dollar amount is what adding a turbine can significantly reduce.
  • The size of the turbine must consider the minimum base electric load present at the facility. The efficiencies of the turbine will not be present if it isn’t kept at full capacity.
  • Any type of utility demand-side-management program with the utility that can defray the energy rates. 

The initial investment for a high-efficiency natural gas turbine can be daunting (initial cost is usually in excess of $2M). But evaluating the return on your client’s investment based on the offset utility costs and co-generative advantages will typically produce positive cash flow within 3 to 4 years and payoff within 7 years. This is considered a long-term investment and not attractive to some clients. However, give your clients the evaluation and let them decide how to spend their money. We are trusted engineering advisors, not accountants. The clients’ CFO may have a very different perspective on the proper use of their money.

Both of these approaches have been personally successful for me. I hope that you too can employ some of the same strategies in your next energy-saving strategy sessions with your clients.

Versluys is a senior electrical engineer and principal at TLC Engineering for Architecture. His areas of expertise include sustainable health care design and campus distribution systems. He is a member of Consulting-Specifying Engineer's editorial advisory board.

<< First < Previous 1 2 Next > Last >>

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Raising the standard: What's new with NFPA 70E; A global view of manufacturing; Maintenance data; Fit bearings properly
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.