BANGOR – In the 18 months since Eastern Maine Medical Center installed its cogeneration heat and electricity plant, the hospital’s energy costs have dropped by more than $1 million.
The $8.4 million, 3,400-square-foot cogeneration, or cogen, plant, supplies nearly all of the hospital’s electricity, heating and cooling needs and has reduced its dependence on the region’s commercial electricity supplier, Bangor Hydro-Electric Co.
When the plant first came online in August 2006, EMMC officials expected it would take about five years for the plant to pay for itself through cost savings.
“At the rate we’re going, it’s going to be a lot less than that,” said Scott Humphrey, plant operations manager at EMMC.
The cogen plant stands on the east side of the hospital complex between State Street and the Penobscot River. It contains a jet engine-size turbine that burns natural gas and draws in air for combustion. A boiler captures the exhaust and uses it to make steam, which is sent to the hospital to heat the buildings and water and to operate its laundry and sterilizing equipment.
The turbine produces up to 4.6 megawatts of electricity at any given time, enough to run 46,000 100-watt bulbs. The plant provides 95 percent of the hospital’s electricity, 90 percent of its heat and 30 percent of its air conditioning.
By generating both heat and electricity with just one fuel source, EMMC is able to maximize the efficiency of the fuel, essentially getting two bangs for the same buck. The turbine has the ability to burn oil as well.
As a result of the cogen plant, EMMC’s fiscal year 2007 heat and power bills totaled $800,000 less than those in fiscal year 2006. EMMC believes the cogen plant saved $1.6 million in anticipated heat and power costs in fiscal year 2007, because prices that year would have continued to rise above the 2006 figures.
The cost savings are enhanced by EMMC’s “locking in” natural gas prices at a two-year low and committing to energy-reducing operating strategies, the hospital said.
The goal of the plant is to reduce energy costs and pass savings on to patients, Humphrey said.
Jeff Mylen, director of EMMC’s construction services, was asked by Gov. John Baldacci’s office to make a presentation on the cogen project in a panel at the Governor’s Energy Efficiency Summit earlier this month. Mylen participated in a panel discussion of opportunities to use combined heat and power technologies for energy efficiency.
For information about the plant, visit www.emmc.org and look for the EMMC cogen button at the bottom of the left navigation bar.