Earth Day on April 22, 2023 is a day to invest in our planet. According to earthday.org, we need to ‘act (boldly), innovate (broadly) and implement (equitably). Businesses, governments and citizens — everyone accounted for, and everyone accountable. A partnership for the planet.’
“At Tri-City Medical Center, we are committed to investing in environmental sustainability, not only for the good of our patients and community, but for the planet as well,” said Benny Oporto, Director of Facilities at the hospital. “We want to be a part of the solution and use our resources efficiently.”
Currently, Tri-City Medical Center’s (TCMC) Facilities Department has several sustainability efforts underway pertaining to water conservation and energy efficiency. “Several years ago, the hospital installed flow meters on its faucets in places like public restrooms, patient rooms and kitchens to decrease the flow rate and reduce daily water consumption,” said Oporto. “As smart water managers, we are not only saving water, but we are also saving on costs.”
TCMC is also retrofitting lights throughout the hospital and in operating rooms. Incandescent and fluorescent bulbs are being replaced by LED bulbs, which use substantially less wattage to achieve the same or greater brightness and have a significantly longer life span before burning out. “Since the energy usage of LED bulbs is less, it positively impacts our bottom line, which means we have more money to spend on improving other areas that may impact patient care,” added Oporto.
In collaboration with Trane, a brand of Ingersoll Rand, TCMC is doing an energy audit of the entire hospital. “Together, we are developing a plan on how to update the facility’s infrastructure to reduce our energy consumption and costs,” said Oporto. “We will start with our water chillers, as they are one of the biggest consumers of energy in a hospital and part of the overall heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Like many hospitals, our chillers are dated and not as efficient as we need today. Although this will be a large and expensive project, we know that the return on our investment will benefit our patients, as well as the environment.”
TCMC is also working with Bloom Energy on a cogeneration energy project to evaluate if the hospital could build an onsite fuel cell plant to generate its own energy by converting natural gas to hydrogen, which is then used to generate electricity. “Currently, SDG&E has to generate and distribute energy to the hospital over hundreds of miles from its generating plant,” said Oporto. “By using a fuel cell system, we could save on energy and costs and continue to advance our sustainability efforts.”
By implementing an onsite fuel cell plant, Oporto estimates that it will help reduce carbon emissions by over 25%, reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide by nearly 100% and result in an overall savings of over $2 million dollars during the first 6 years to the hospital.
In 2022, TCMC received the American Society for Healthcare Engineering’s Energy to Care Award, which honors healthcare facilities for their achievements in healthcare sustainability. As one of only 170 winners across the country, TCMC had to meet certain criteria such as tracking energy and water consumption, as well as greenhouse gas emissions, and achieving a certain percentage of energy use intensity (EUI) savings.
“I’m extremely proud of the work that we are doing to keep our facility operating efficiently so that we can build a healthier community and remain environmentally sustainable for many years to come,” said Oporto.
To learn how you can invest in our planet, visit earthday.org.