Combining Heat and Power for the Triple Bottom Line

November 14, 2012
Courtesy of the U.S. EPA.
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Thanks to the large demands for electrical and heating loads in hospitals, combined heat and power (CHP), also known as cogeneration, has emerged as an attractive option for facilities looking to cut energy costs and go green. And Geisinger Health System, headquartered in Danville, Pa., put it to the test.

Alan Neuner, CHFM, vice president, facilities operations, Geisinger Health System, shared the system’s story in the session “Hospital CHP—A Real ‘Green’ Machine” at the recent HEALTHCARE DESIGN Conference in Phoenix.

I had the chance to sit in on his discussion and learn how what may still be a foreign concept to some hospitals is already paying off for Geisinger.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), CHP is “an integrated energy system that can be modified depending upon the needs of the energy end user.” The two most common system configurations are a gas turbine or engine with a heat recovery unit, or a steam boiler with a steam turbine.

CHP provides onsite generation of electrical and/or mechanical power, waste-heat recovery, and seamless system integration, the EPA goes on to state.

For Geisinger, the decision to pursue cogeneration wasn’t just about cost savings but about its overall mission to keep people healthy, and using an alternate form of energy generation was at least one solution to reduce pollution and improve health.

Often institutions look to what’s called the triple bottom line, or “people, planet, and profit.” Neuner says CHP did the trick to meet all three objectives for Geisinger. “Energy projects are really the only thing you can do to impact all pieces of that circle,” he says.

With a cost significantly lower than solar or wind projects, Geisinger’s CHP system operates at about a 75% efficiency rate. And the return on investment isn’t too shabby either.

Neuner says the total cost of the project was $5.3 million, with $2.75 million covered by grants, leaving the net cost at $2.55 million. Annual energy savings, however, are $2.2 million, bringing the ROI in at 14 months.

But outside of the cost savings, Neuner says the move is far more reaching, reducing occurrences of conditions ranging from premature death to chronic bronchitis.

“There’s a higher calling to what you’re doing,” he says. “It’s not only about the money. It’s about the other pieces in the triple bottom line.”

The EPA offers CHP resources on its website as well as a questionnaire to help assess whether your facility may be a good candidate for CHP. Check it out here: http://www.epa.gov/chp/project-development/qualifier_form.html.

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