The growing role of sustainable microgrids in health care

Schneider Electric
Monday, 18 January, 2021



Hospitals are facing budget pressures and demands to operate sustainably, but administrators cannot ignore the critical issue of power supply and resilience against grid instability. Increasingly they are turning to microgrids to boost resilience and finding that the technology can also address their financial and environmental issues.

Now is the perfect time for hospital teams to adopt a microgrid solution: the technology is mature, making solutions more affordable and easier to implement than ever before.

Microgrids work by generating energy through distributed energy resources (DERs) such as renewables and combined heat and power (CHP) systems. The energy generated is consumed by the load and excess energy is either sold to the grid or stored in batteries.

At a time when healthcare facilities are facing financial pressures due to COVID-19, microgrids enable a facility to automatically choose the lowest-cost fuel source, thereby helping them save on their energy bill. For example, a hospital may decide to ‘go island’ when consuming energy from the grid isn’t cost-effective, such as during times of peak demand.

Innovative solutions are needed to handle the influx of patients from a global population that continues to grow, especially as that population ages. Continuity of electrical supply is vital to the delivery of healthcare services and protecting patient safety. This means that hospitals need to be able to ensure that electricity supply is not interrupted at any stage as lives could be on the line.

At the same time, advances in medical care often require increasingly complex technology, resulting in an increased demand for power within healthcare facilities. With many regions of the world facing grid instability, including hospitals in natural disaster-prone areas unable to rely on the national grid remaining up, local solutions can provide a more reliable, and sustainable, source of energy.

In the past, emergency power has been predefined to address only the most critical functions — eg, operating rooms, intensive care and emergency — accounting for 20–50% of the total services of the hospital. However, as the number and severity of weather events increase, local communities are in greater distress, requiring 100% sustained hospital services, enabled by 100% power availability.

In their 2019 outlook for the healthcare industry, Deloitte noted, “Global health care expenditures are expected to continue to rise as spending is projected to increase at an annual rate of 5.4% between 2017–2022.”

Two of the five key factors impacting financial performance are listed as “increased use of exponential technologies” and “the demand for expanded care delivery sites”.

As for many industries, staying ahead of environmental regulations while maintaining service levels is a challenge that healthcare facilities must tackle. Managing consumption and using green energy sources is often a big part of complying with regulations while also ensuring that the facilities can remain online during a crisis. Beyond that, minimising a building’s carbon footprint can also help achieve green building certification and establish a ‘greener’ image in the local community.

Faced with this, hospitals are increasingly building microgrids to improve patient safety through better power availability, while relieving budgetary and environmental pressures. A complete microgrid solution intelligently coordinates a variety of onsite, distributed energy generation assets to optimise costs and power stability, including the option to ‘island’ from the utility grid to avoid exposure to outages or disturbances.

With their need for large amounts of continuous, clean and affordable power, hospitals are excellent candidates to benefit from microgrids. Microgrid technology has reached a high level of maturity, being adopted in many types of facility and infrastructure applications, such as utilities, community services, government offices, military bases, large industrials, hospitals, and educational campuses.1

Worldwide microgrid capacity is anticipated to grow by more than 20% per year. Driven by previous massive growth, the overall cost of installing microgrids has dropped an estimated 25 to 30% since 2014,2 and is expected to continue on that trajectory. Microgrids ensure smartly procured, locally generated and efficiently consumed energy — they’re an ideal solution for healthcare facilities looking to keep the power on and save energy costs during uncertain times.

Schneider Electric provides complete microgrid expertise and integrated solutions for hospitals. Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure™ for Healthcare is the IoT solution architecture for digital hospitals. Find out how Schneider Electric can deliver solutions that improve safety, patient satisfaction and operational efficiency by visiting se.com/au/healthcare.

References

1. https://microgridknowledge.com/microgrids-businesses-institutions/.

2. https://microgridknowledge.com/microgrid-market-navigant/.

Where EcoStruxure for Healthcare by Schneider Electric has provided success for Australian hospitals

Western Sydney, Sydney

A teaching hospital in Western Sydney was using a plethora of system migrations including pneumatics to excel controllers. A refurb was required quickly, without disturbing the daily operations of the hospital, while at the same time a six-month construction program was being rolled out to expand operations.

Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure solution was implemented and meets the needs of the NSW Government’s vision to transform the hospital into an innovative, contemporary and integrated healthcare centre.

As a result, the hospital now enjoys better synergy as they deal with one technology provider over the entire facility. The IoT-enabled, future-ready platform EcoStruxure for Healthcare helps the hospital insightfully anticipate and manage the everyday matters and extraordinary events of health care.

Blue Mountains, Sydney

A teaching hospital in one of the fastest-growing areas in Sydney was struggling with distributed systems and a lack of reliable, energy-efficient power. It required a scalable solution for future expansion that could handle multiple complicated integrations.

To tackle this challenge, the EcoStruxure Building Operation was selected to manage operating theatres, isolation and endoscopy rooms, air conditioning, monitoring of blood fridges and the ongoing provision of power to electrical, water and gas meters.

Today, facility upgrades and new developments are being added to the system to continue to provide a central point of control over all power requirements within the hospital.

Melbourne, Victoria

A provider of discreet service for cancer patients was faced with ageing infrastructure and disparate systems while facing growing competition in the sector.

The Ecostruxure for Healthcare solution provided integration of all technologies for improved operability and ensured that the redevelopment maintained the facility’s reputation as an innovative, modern and technologically advanced hospital able to respond to current and forecast demands.

Schneider Electric technology has evolved with the provider’s needs over many years. Ecostruxure brings a new level of integration providing value that the hospital can leverage for their patient experiences.

Adelaide City Centre, Adelaide

A leading healthcare provider in Adelaide was fusing an end-of-life environmental monitoring system with requirements for validation to Good Manufacturing Practices. The segregated EMS and BMS systems that the hospital had in place provided risk of downtime and the facility teams needed to respond to alarms from both systems.

To tackle this challenge, Schneider Electric upgraded the entire system using the EcoStruxure Building Operation solution for centralised site management.

As a result, the facility has reduced the risk of non-compliance and can now view EMS and BMS from a single platform. In addition, the system provides a known lifecycle budget, improved audit trail and reporting functions, enhanced cybersecurity and reduced risk of system downtime.

Designed to deliver improved safety, patient satisfaction and operational efficiency, EcoStruxure for Healthcare is the IoT solution architecture for digital hospitals.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/sudok1

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