Climate stressors and impacts
Storms like Hurricane Sandy demonstrate a region’s vulnerability to extreme weather events. They can also show the benefits of adapting to reduce impacts. Sandy, a storm that caused more than $65 million in damage, made landfall on the New Jersey coast on October 29, 2012. At its peak, the storm cut electrical power to more than 8.5 million customers. Such power outages can be particularly disastrous for health care facilities, which require power to provide continuous critical care. Fortunately for the town of Greenwich, Connecticut, Greenwich Hospital had adjusted its power infrastructure several years earlier so the medical center could continue functioning during a storm like Sandy, even as power went out in the surrounding area.
In 2008, the 175-bed Greenwich Hospital installed a combined heat and power (CHP) system that consisted of two 1,250 kW natural gas-fired reciprocating engines. They also installed a 2,000 kW backup generator and received ENERGY STAR certification in 2010 and 2011. This CHP system runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except during routine maintenance. The hospital uses the systems’ thermal output for hot water and space heating. The CHP system saves energy, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and significantly improves the hospital’s resilience, as demonstrated when Sandy hit the area.
Hurricane Sandy knocked out power in the area surrounding Greenwich Hospital for approximately seven days. However, when the grid power was lost, the hospital was down for just seven seconds before its backup generators kicked in and restored power. The transition from using grid power to operating solely on the CHP system went as planned. During the brief re-launch time, backup generators supplied power to the hospital. This entire transition process took approximately five minutes. The power system enabled Greenwich Hospital to continue normal operations throughout the storm; they even admitted 20 additional patients during the outage period. In addition, 150 extra staff members stayed overnight at the hospital.
Continuing to serve the community
The independent power infrastructure also enables the hospital to help the Greenwich community in new ways. The hospital participates in a electricity demand response program: if the local power grid is in danger of an outage (for instance, under heavy air conditioning use during an intense heat wave), the hospital will go off the grid to help stabilize the system. For this service, the hospital receives $30 per kW when called upon to disconnect from the grid. This compensation helps them recoup their investment and continue providing this resilience-enhancing service.