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. ••
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.”