Holy Redeemer scores savings with energy idea

The new fa­cil­ity: The in­teri­or of Holy Re­deem­er Health Sys­tems’ co-gen­er­a­tion plant in Mead­ow­brook. The plant will save the hos­pit­al a lot of money for elec­tric power and re­duce its car­bon foot­print.

Holy Re­deem­er Health Sys­tems work­ers can hear the sound of en­ergy sav­ings when they park their cars in the em­ploy­ee gar­age off Hunt­ing­don Pike in the Mead­ow­brook sec­tion of Lower Mo­re­land.

It’s kind of a high-pitched whirr­ing noise.

At least, that’s the sound out­side the med­ic­al cen­ter’s new co-gen­er­a­tion plant, which gen­er­ates elec­tric power. In­side the multistory build­ing, they’d need earplugs be­cause the gas-fired en­gine is really, really loud. Make that LOUD!

The sav­ings are loud, too, said Jack De­mp­ster, Holy Re­deem­er’s vice pres­id­ent of con­struc­tion and fa­cil­it­ies man­age­ment. He pro­jects the hos­pit­al, which serves much of North­east Philly and east­ern Montco, could shave $800,000 off its an­nu­al PECO tab.

Nice piece of change, es­pe­cially when a $1.4 mil­lion re­bate check is factored in. De­mp­ster said Holy Re­deem­er could use the sav­ings to re­duce charges to pa­tients or provide more ser­vices.

Holy Re­deem­er raked in that ex­tra $1.4 mil­lion from PECO’s “Smart Ideas” pro­gram, which provides in­cent­ives for cus­tom­ers who in­stall com­bined heat-and-power tech­no­logy, said the util­ity’s spokes­man Ben Arm­strong.

The health sys­tem’s new 2-mega­watt sys­tem will cut elec­tri­city pur­chases, but it will use 95,000 mil­lion cu­bic feet of nat­ur­al gas each year to pro­duce elec­tric power for the hos­pit­al’s myri­ad uses, Arm­strong said.

“We’re buy­ing a lot more nat­ur­al gas,” De­mp­ster said dur­ing a June 11 in­ter­view.

So where are the dol­lar sav­ings?

De­mp­ster ex­plained that Holy Re­deem­er uses 2,300 kilo­watts of power to 4,000 kilo­watts per hour. “We burn a lot of elec­tri­city,” he said.

The new gas-fired en­gine can sup­ply about 2,000 kilo­watts, but Holy Re­deem­er still buys PECO power, too.

The same en­gine cre­ates a lot of heat, De­mp­ster said. That “waste heat” goes up, is cap­tured and is used to run a boil­er that’s dir­ectly above the en­gine. That boil­er provides hot wa­ter and steam, which a hos­pit­al uses re­peatedly and in great volume. That heat go­ing up to the boil­er provides the hot sav­ings, De­mp­ster said.

So, there is more than one kind of sav­ings. Pro­du­cing elec­tri­city right at Holy Re­deem­er is cheap­er than buy­ing it. By cap­tur­ing the waste heat, the med­ic­al cen­ter’s boil­ers don’t need as much pur­chased nat­ur­al gas to op­er­ate. Green­house emis­sions are re­duced 55 per­cent per year, ac­cord­ing to Holy Re­deem­er spokes­wo­man Bar­bara L’Amor­eaux. The 11,774 tons of green­house gases that don’t go in­to the en­vir­on­ment each year are ”equal to re­mov­ing the car­bon emis­sions of 1,931 vehicles and 552 homes,” she said.

For years, De­mp­ster said, he had been look­ing at nip­ping at and trim­ming power use. That, he said, is based on the “stew­ard­ship,” or be­ing thought­ful in use of re­sources — hu­man, fin­an­cial and en­vir­on­ment­al.

Still, he thought, “Are we do­ing everything we could be do­ing?”

Holy Re­deem­er got help find­ing the an­swer, De­mp­ster said.

PWI En­gin­eer­ing was hired and the co-gen idea was re­com­men­ded. That was about four years and $4.8 mil­lion ago.

After the de­cision was made to build, the hos­pit­al had to find a place to do it. It was de­cided to put the new equip­ment in be­hind a boil­er room and next to the em­ploy­ee park­ing gar­age. Large oxy­gen tanks and a lot of pipes had to be moved.

The new fa­cil­ity’s ex­pense didn’t end when con­struc­tion was com­plete in 2013, De­mp­ster said. It re­quires reg­u­lar ser­vice, too, he said. De­mp­ster, however, ex­pects Holy Re­deem­er will re­cov­er the costs of its in­vest­ment. ••

Power think­ing

PECO launched a suite of en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and de­mand re­sponse pro­grams in 2009, called PECO Smart Ideas, to help its res­id­en­tial, busi­ness, gov­ern­ment and non­profit cus­tom­ers save en­ergy and money, said Ben Arm­strong, a PECO spokes­man.

“Since launch­ing, these pro­grams have helped PECO cus­tom­ers save more than $350 mil­lion, in­clud­ing more than $220 mil­lion in en­ergy sav­ings, and more than $130 mil­lion in re­bates, dis­counts and in­cent­ives on en­ergy ef­fi­cient products,” Arm­strong stated.

“Smart Ideas is part of the com­pany’s sup­port of Pennsylvania’s en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and de­mand re­sponse tar­gets – Act 129. Act 129 re­quired all Pennsylvania elec­tric util­it­ies to de­vel­op pro­grams to help cus­tom­ers re­duce en­ergy use by 1 per­cent by May 31, 2011, and 3 per­cent by May 31, 2013,” Arm­strong ad­ded. “Act 129 also re­quired util­it­ies help cus­tom­ers re­duce their en­ergy us­age by an ad­di­tion­al 2.9 per­cent by May 31, 2016.”

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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