The lights are staying on for patients and medical staff at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa thanks to a new Central Energy Plant (CEP), the Grossmont Healthcare District (GHD) reports. And, the hospital’s normal electric bill to San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) of about $180,000 per month is now zero.
“The hospital’s CEP is now fully operational and the hospital is officially off the electrical grid,” said Robert “Bob” Ayres, GHD 2016 board president. “Taxpayers can be assured that their publicly-owned hospital is equipped to handle future energy capacity needs with on-site electric power generation at the lowest possible cost. For decades into the future, the new CEP will save millions of dollars in energy costs, plus reduce the hospital’s emission of greenhouse gas pollutants by 90 percent. Even in the event of an outage or other emergency, the hospital will continue to operate as needed.”
Construction of the $47 million new plant was financed through Proposition G, a bond measure sponsored by GHD and approved by East County voters in June 2006.
The three-story, 18,400-square-foot building, visible from the State Route 125 freeway on the southwest side of the hospital campus, also houses a new $18 million cogeneration system paid for by Sharp Grossmont Hospital as part of the continuing partnership with GHD. The cogeneration system utilizes a combustion turbine generator (CTG), similar in function to a spinning engine on a passenger jetliner.
In addition to electrical power, the 52-ton CTG produces heat that is converted to steam used to operate medical equipment, space heating and air conditioning, plus it provides hot and cold water to the hospital.
Powered by natural gas, the CTG, built by Solar Turbines of San Diego, has a capacity to produce up to 4.4 megawatts of electricity, which is more than the hospital’s current need of about 3.2 megawatts, officials said. GHD said the new facility was designed to allow for future growth and expansion of the hospital.
Also inside the plant are boilers, chillers, cooling towers and auxiliary systems. It has a state-of-the-art control room that monitors the heating and refrigeration equipment, medical air and vacuum pumps.
Officials said the hospital typically consumes about 2.3 million kilowatt hours per month. In comparison, SDG&E says the average household uses about 500 kilowatt hours in a 30-day period.
“We have the capacity to sell surplus electricity back to the utility company,” said Michael Emerson, GHD board member and chair of the GHD Proposition G Committee. “We’re pleased that the new cogen system has replaced two smaller existing combustion turbine generators that were installed back in 1984.”
The CEP building was constructed with 131 tons of reinforced steel rods or bars surrounded by 4.23 million pounds of concrete with a 106-by-70-foot concrete foundation slab that is four feet thick. It took 120 concrete trucks delivering more than 1,120 cubic yards of concrete to lay the foundation. McCarthy Building Co. was the general contractor for the building’s construction, including site construction work, excavation and shoring.
Testing of equipment, which began last year, was a complex process involving checking the integration of a multitude of moving parts, officials said. Also last year, permits for the new equipment were issued by the California Air Pollution Control District.
GHD said the new CEP complies with state and local standards for air emissions. “Even though the on-site power being generated is now more than double the power generated by the old CTG, the emissions of nitrogen oxides, which cause ground-level smog, have been reduced by 90 percent,” said Barry Jantz, CEO, Grossmont Healthcare District. “We are emitting less than half of the allowable emissions, which makes us one of the five least polluting plants recently constructed in the state.”
GHD is the public agency that serves as landlord of the hospital’s buildings and property on behalf of East County taxpayers. The hospital is managed and operated by Sharp HealthCare under a lease agreement between GHD and Sharp HealthCare.
Taxpayer-funded construction is continuing at the publicly-owned, 524-bed hospital which opened in 1955. Other Proposition G construction projects, as included in the 2006 ballot measure, includes ongoing construction of a 71,000-square-foot Heart and Vascular (H&V) Center, scheduled for completion in 2017, and the recently completed renovation of floors two through five of the seven-story East Tower building, originally constructed in 1974. In 2009, the top three floors of the Emergency and Critical Care Center opened with 90 new patient beds, including 24 intensive care beds on one floor and 66 medical/surgical beds on two other floors.
For more information about GHD, visit www.grossmonthealthcare.org.