Cutting costs without cutting care

Hospitals by their nature are high energy consumers, having a large electricity and heat demand 365 days a year. This makes them ideal candidates for energy savings, with every cost under scrutiny in the healthcare sector and increasing pressure to improve energy efficiency.

Installing a natural gas-fuelled combined heat and power (CHP) plant in a hospital is an ideal way of achieving this improved efficiency, whilst simultaneously reducing the sites carbon emissions. As the UK Government aspires to become carbon-neutral in the not too distant future, green gases such as hydrogen are likely to be transitioned into the gas grid. CHP gas engine installations are ‘hydrogen ready’ with a number of engines already operating using the zero-carbon fuel.

Clarke Energy is multi-national specialist in installing, engineering and maintaining high efficiency combined heat and power (CHP) plants. The company has installed over 80MW of power generation into UK hospitals across 40 NHS sites.

When a hospital purchases both electricity from the national grid and in parallel gas or another fuel for heating this can lead to higher costs. Using a gas engine-based CHP plant facilitates the purchase of a single fuel source to achieve both the production of electricity and heat. If a hospital has need for cooling, trigeneration (or combined cooling, heat and power CCHP) technology can produce a supplementary source of cold water for refrigeration or air conditioning.

Energy usage in hospitals takes a number of forms including:

  • Electricity – required to power the lighting and equipment of the facility
  • Hot water – For cleaning & general use
  • Steam – For sterilisation, cleaning
  • Cooling – For refrigeration, freezing and air conditioning systems.

Each of these energy types can be produced at high efficiency with the assistance of a CHP facility.

Combined heat and power installations have become increasingly popular in hospitals, with the key benefits being:

  • Energy savings that can be diverted to fund the treatment of patients.
  • Financial benefits compared to the separate purchase of electricity and heating fuel.
  • Environmental benefits related to reduced carbon emissions as natural gas is a clean burning low carbon fuel
  • Flexible technology that can be used to provide electricity, heating and cooling if required.

Clarke Energy’s CHP solutions are proven in the UK market having been supplying Jenbacher engines plants to the healthcare sector since 1997. The original units installed at Freemans Hospital in the North East of England have now been replaced by the latest, most efficient engine models. Since 1997 a total of 50 engines have been installed across 40 NHS sites, providing 80MW of power generation.

Project Examples

Clarke Energy supplied a high-efficiency 1.4MW trigeneration plant to Europe’s oldest hospital located at Barts Health NHS Trust. The natural gas energy centre was built to increase the hospital’s energy security and efficiency while reducing its fuel costs and curbing its environmental impacts. Clarke Energy also supplied a 250-kilowatt absorption chiller, which delivers needed cooling water for the hospital and balance of plant equipment. The award-winning ‘Pink Power’ project was also unique in that the normally green Jenbacher engine was painted bright pink in order to support breast cancer research. The official start of the engines commenced on NHS Sustainability Day in 2016. This nationally recognised day for climate change action aims to engage healthcare staff to improve their environmental awareness.

With Clarke Energy’s help Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust became one of the first healthcare trusts in London to produce its own electricity and heat through CHP – saving the equivalent carbon dioxide of around 17,000 passengers flying to New York and enough energy to power the city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne for a week. Overall the Jenbacher engines reduced CO2 emissions produced by the Trust by almost 11,300 tonnes per year. It also saved the trust more than £1.5 million in energy costs annually – one of the largest savings from a CHP for an NHS trust.

Reasons to use CHP:

  • CHP achieves savings of up to 40%
  • CHP can achieve over 90% energy efficiency
  • CHP reduces carbon emissions by up to 30%
  • CHP can qualify for enhanced capital allowances and can achieve 2-year capital repayment

The Future

With the UK Government setting the ambitious target of becoming net zero carbon by 2050, there are many questions about where gas-engine CHP fits into the future of the UK power network. Two ways to decarbonise the gas grid that have been suggested are changing the composition of gas in the network to hydrogen and biomethane, referred to as ‘green gas’. Clarke Energy are already looking to the future by adding new products and services to their offering to include these green gases.

Hydrogen is a zero-carbon emission energy source and can be used as a fuel in gas engines to generate electricity, heat and cooling. INNIO Jenbacher gas engines are now hydrogen ready with a number of engines operating on currently up to 70% hydrogen. INNIO also plans to demonstrate by 2021 that their engines can run on up to 100% hydrogen and ethanol.