Alternative power sources, including combined heat and power (CHP) and health care microgrids, are of increasing interest to American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE) members. CHP, or co-generation, is a means of improving energy efficiency while reducing carbon emissions, enabling health care facilities’ finite financial resources to be stretched further. Low-emission, clean-burning natural gas can be leveraged to produce electricity and heat. CHP is increasingly a focus because of the continual need within health care facilities for a heat source, says Jonathan Flannery, CHFM, FASHE, FACHE, ASHE senior associate director of advocacy.

“When you’re cooling air, you’re taking heat out of it,” Flannery says. “In a hospital, we can take that heat and use it where we need it. That makes it extremely cost-effective.”

The technology has been around for about 15 years, Flannery estimates. But the health care field takes longer to adopt new technologies. CHP has recently become a major interest, given administrators’ goal of saving money on energy and plowing it back into their facilities. “The money saved on utilities can be used elsewhere,” Flannery says.

Another new trend is the use of health care microgrids. A health care microgrid is a system of energy sources combined together to provide a health care facility or hospital campus redundant power completely independent of the utility, says Chad E. Beebe, AIA, FASHE, CHFM, deputy executive director of advocacy for ASHE.

The health care microgrid also provides the flexibility to choose alternative energy sources, whether wind, solar, a fuel cell or other sources. “In a health care microgrid, you don’t really have a primary source of power,” Beebe says. “You have many alternate sources working together as your primary source.”

All of these sources are utilized on a regular basis. Once a piece of equipment is run and used more routinely, the need for frequent testing no longer exists, says Beebe, who also wrote a column on microgrids on page 4 of this issue of Health Facilities Management. “Now we have to go through and rethink our regulations,” he adds.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) membership voted on a new standard at last month’s NFPA Conference & Expo in San Antonio. NFPA 855, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems, covers the design, installation and operation of these systems with a focus on the safety aspect. The results of the vote weren’t available at press time.