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Sharp Hospital goes off the grid

Posted: December 23rd, 2016 | Featured, Features, News | No Comments

By Rick Griffin

Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa and the Grossmont Healthcare District (GHD) celebrated the completion of the hospital’s taxpayer-funded Central Energy Plant (CEP) on Dec. 20.

(l to r) GHD board members Randy Lenac and Gloria Chadwick, County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, GHD board members Michael Emerson, Virginia Hall, Bob Ayres (Photo by Carol Sonstein)

A ceremony featured remarks from elected officials and a celebration photo with an oversize electrical switch and confetti cannon.

Construction of the $47 million plant was financed through Proposition G, a bond measure sponsored by GHD and approved by East County voters in June 2006. With the completion of the CEP, the hospital’s typical electric bill to SDG&E of about $180,000 per month is now zero.

“We’re very proud that the Central Energy Plant is now fully operational and the hospital is officially off the electrical grid,” said Michael Emerson, GHD board president. “Taxpayers can be assured that their publicly-owned hospital is equipped to handle future energy capacity needs with on-site electric power generation at the lowest possible cost. For decades into the future, the new CEP will save millions of dollars in energy costs, plus reduce the hospital’s emission of greenhouse gas pollutants by 90 percent. Even in the event of an outage or other emergency, the hospital will continue to operate as needed.”

David Ornelas shows Dianne Jacob around the new Central Energy Plant at Sharp Grossmont Hospital. (Photo by Carol Sonstein)

Other speakers at the flip-the-switch event included San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob and Dave Grundstrom, chair of the Grossmont Hospital Corp. (GHC). GHC is the operating entity for the hospital lease agreement between Sharp HealthCare and GHD.

“We are grateful for the entire community’s support of the hospital, especially the taxpayers who approved Proposition G, as well as philanthropic support from the community,” Grundstrom said. “We now have the capacity to sell surplus electricity back to the utility company.”

Jacob praised the efforts of Sharp Grossmont Hospital and GHD for assuring taxpayers that their publicly-owned hospital is equipped to handle future energy capacity needs at the lowest possible cost.

“In addition, I’m especially pleased that this new Central Energy Plant will … reduce the hospital’s emission of greenhouse gas pollutants by 90 percent,” she said. “The CEP is emitting less than half of the allowable emissions, which makes its one of the five least polluting plants recently constructed in the state of California.”

The three-story, 18,400-square-foot building, visible from the State Route 125 on the southwest side of the hospital campus, also houses a new $18 million cogeneration system paid for by Sharp Grossmont Hospital as part of the continuing partnership with GHD. The hospital is managed and operated by Sharp HealthCare under a lease agreement between GHD and Sharp HealthCare.

Built by Solar Turbines of San Diego, the cogeneration system utilizes a combustion turbine generator (CTG), similar in function to a spinning engine on a passenger jetliner. In addition to electrical power, the 52-ton CTG produces heat that is converted to steam used to operate medical equipment, space heating and air conditioning, plus it provides hot and cold water to the hospital. Powered by natural gas, the CTG has a capacity to produce up to 4.4 megawatts of electricity, which is more than the hospital’s current need of about 3.2 megawatts, officials said. GHD said the new facility was designed to allow for future growth and expansion of the hospital.

Also inside the plant are boilers, chillers, cooling towers and auxiliary systems. It has a state-of-the-art control room that monitors the heating and refrigeration equipment, medical air and vacuum pumps. Officials said the hospital typically consumes about 2.3 million kilowatt hours per month. In comparison, SDG&E says the average household uses about 500 kilowatt hours in a 30-day period.

McCarthy Building Co. constructed the CEP with 131 tons of reinforced steel rods or bars surrounded by 4.23 million pounds of concrete with a 106-by-70-foot concrete foundation slab that is four feet thick.

On one side of the CEP, a sign states “Brady Family Cogen” in honor of a donation from La Mesa residents Ron and Mary Alice Brady, founders of the Brady Companies, a La Mesa-based contractor.

Taxpayer-funded construction is ongoing at the hospital. Other Proposition G construction projects includes construction of a 71,000-square-foot Heart and Vascular Center and the recently completed renovation of floors two through five of the seven-story East Tower building. In 2009, the top three floors of the Emergency and Critical Care Center opened with 90 new patient beds, including 24 intensive care beds on one floor and 66 medical/surgical beds on two other floors.

For more information about GHD, visit grossmonthealthcare.org.

—Rick Griffin is a public relations specialist who writes on behalf of the Grossmont Healthcare district. Visit him online at rickgriffin.com.

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