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BWMC’s new generator provides hospital with a trifecta

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A view of the natural gas combustion CAT generator that is the heart of the Cogeneration plant at University of Maryland BWMC, producing 2 mega watts of electricity per hour. (Maximilian Franz / The Daily Record)

The University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center has publicly unveiled its new cogeneration plant which, the hospital said will reduce emissions, cut energy costs and help keep critical hospital functions running during an emergency.

The cogenerator, also known as a combined heat and power system, creates electricity to power the Glen Burnie hospital.

Normally, that would be the end of the process, but the cogenerator repurposes waste heat to manage the hospital’s heating needs.

“It allows us to be cleaner, greener and more efficient,” said Andrew Brumfield, the hospital’s director of facilities.

Last week, hospital systems showed that the electrical system was operating at 68 percent efficiency. Before the cogenerator had been installed, that figure sat in the low 40s, said Earl Burke, the hospital’s engineering manager.

The cogeneration plant, which officially came online in January, took 14 months to install. The total cost was $8 million.

The hospital expects to save $750,000 in energy costs every year by switching to the plant and hopes to have paid for the cost of the plant in 10 years.

The hospital also received a one-time $1.75 million rebate from BGE and a one-time $475,000 grant from the Maryland Energy Administration to help build the generator.

The cogenerator uses natural gas instead of diesel fuel, which hospital officials said would further reduce the hospital’s carbon footprint.

“By relying on a cogeneration plant along with diesel-fueled generators, (the hospital) is able to reduce its consumption of fossil fuels and, in turn, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from the medical center that are released into the atmosphere,” Brumfield said.

The cogenerator will also help the Baltimore Washington Medical Center stay open during an emergency, including the types of weather emergencies that could knock out power.

Because the plant will run on natural gas, which is kept underground, the generator will run even when other infrastructure in an area is knocked out by lightning or high winds.

It will also allow the hospital to continue to keep operating rooms at the necessary temperature and humidity ranges, keeping the rooms open during emergencies.

Extending the hospital’s emergency capabilities was the real benefit of the new system, Brumfield said. The generator’s energy efficiency was a bonus

How Cogeneration Works

When a large generator, like a natural gas generator, creates electricity, it also generates a lot of heat. Typically, there would be nowhere useful for that heat to go.

But with cogeneration, the waste heat is redirected to other areas of the building that can use the heat. The process includes water, which boils to spread hot steam.

In the Baltimore Washington Medical Center, that includes heating the building and the facility’s chillers, which keep the building cool.

In the hospital’s basement facilities plant, there are two large boilers, as well as an older, third unit.

Before the cogenerator was installed, the hospital used both large boilers, Burke said. Now the hospital cycles between them.


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