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 2015 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...
Safety for 18 years, warehouse maintenance tips, Ethernet and the IIoT, GAMS 2016 recap
2016 Engineering Leaders Under 40; Future vision: Where is manufacturing headed?; Electrical distribution, redefined
Strategic outsourcing delivers efficiency; Sleeve bearing clearance; Causes of water hammer; Improve air quality; Maintenance safety; GAMS preview
SCADA at the junction, Managing risk through maintenance, Moving at the speed of data
Safety at every angle, Big Data's impact on operations, bridging the skills gap
The digital oilfield: Utilizing Big Data can yield big savings; Virtualization a real solution; Tracking SIS performance
Applying network redundancy; Overcoming loop tuning challenges; PID control and networks
Driving motor efficiency; Preventing arc flash in mission critical facilities; Integrating alternative power and existing electrical systems
Package boilers; Natural gas infrared heating; Thermal treasure; Standby generation; Natural gas supports green efforts

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

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.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role of plant safety and offers advice on best practices.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
This article collection contains several articles on strategic maintenance and understanding all the parts of your plant.
click me