Smart Microgrids: How Hospitals Can Take Control of Their Energy Costs
March 12, 2010
In Connecticut and New England, aging power plants and transmission lines prevail and will likely result in power disruptions and unstable and/or higher power prices in the near future, and Connecticut already has nearly the highest electricity prices in the country. The good news is that there have been strong technological advancements in smart meters and demand response technologies coupled with strong public policy and monetary incentives for the deployment of cutting-edge renewable energy generation and energy efficiency measures. The end result is a strong trend toward a more localized, comprehensive, and customer-driven approach to electricity generation, energy delivery, and load management for electricity end-users.
This trend is fueling the proliferation of small, but smart microgrids at entities with campus-like settings such as universities and military bases. Hospitals are also particularly well suited for smart microgrids because they operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, require reliable and uninterrupted power supply, and can utilize waste heat for use in the hospital, and often have a multi-building campus lay-out. Hospitals that take full advantage of smart microgrid technology will save substantially on their energy costs compared to competing hospitals that stay the old course and remain at the mercy of the local distribution utilities and the often volatile energy commodities market.
What is a smart microgrid? A smart microgrid is simply a modernized, small-scale, localized version of the older and outdated and large centralized electricity system serving electricity customers today. Unlike the traditional large power grid approach, under the smart microgrid approach, the energy consumer, not the utility, generates and controls all, or a portion, of its electricity needs in the most cost effective manner possible for the benefit of the energy consumer.
The benefits of a smart microgrid approach for hospitals are numerous. First, a smart microgrid at a hospital site can integrate all on-site renewable generation resources, demand-side-management technologies, heat recovery, and usage with all of the hospital buildings to meet the exact energy needs of the hospital through real time energy management. This will allow the hospital to maximize energy savings through sophisticated load profiling techniques.
Second a smart microgrid can greatly increase energy reliability for the hospital by integrating redundant distribution, smart switches, automation, power generation, power storage and other smart technologies. Because all or a portion of the power generation and storage will at the hospital’s location, this will allow the hospital’s critical facilities to operate independent of the utility distribution system when necessary, and thus eliminate disruptions in power to the hospital. In addition, new technologies such as smart switches and sensors automatically fix and anticipate any power disturbances.
Third, a smart micro grid can save money by allowing the hospital to procure power in real-time at significantly lower costs, while using on-site renewable generation to hedge peak power costs, sell in the day-ahead market, and produce Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) for sale. In addition, a smart microgrid can reuse the waste heat energy that is produced during on-site renewable and traditional electricity generation for heating buildings, hot water, sterilization, cooling and refrigeration.
Lastly, smart microgrids make it possible to get the most from renewable generation because they have the flexibility to integrate on-site fuel cell, small wind, solar photovoltaic (PV), solar hot water and geothermal heat pumps in an integrated manner.
At Murtha Cullina, we believe that renewable energy and energy efficiency go hand-in-hand. To this end, the firm’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency practice area provides comprehensive, creative and innovative solutions to the ever growing and cutting edge needs and problems facing clients as they deploy renewable energy distributed generation (DG), demand-side-management, and energy efficiency at their businesses, hospitals, schools, and other institutions. We assist clients in securing funding from state and federal funding sources for the deployment of renewable energy generation, demand-side-management, and energy efficiency measures. In addition, we assist in identifying and advocating for the removal of legal, regulatory, and legislative impediments to the full deployment of renewable energy, demand-side-management, and energy efficiency in Connecticut and Massachusetts.