Transform New York's Hospitals Into Microgrids

Jul 13 2015


In hurricane Sandy’s wake, many places were without electricity for days. Though most hospitals have emergency power systems, some failed to work. This translates into closed doors, patients who can not be looked after and operations that cannot be performed. Now Blue Pillar has become a selected solution provider for Con Edison’s Demand Management Program, a program that will help transform New York’s hospitals into microgrids.


Utilities often have have some power, in emergency situations, but not enough to meet demand. That leaves them with two options: supply what you can and then go brown out or black out on certain parts of the city. That is what happened in California for many years.
Or, as Con ED is doing in New York, call up customers and enroll them in basic demand response.


“This is a situation where hospitals will proactively start their generators in order to protect the utility from an outage. They will also protect themselves in a situation where the utility would otherwise have almost been sure to go into an outage,” said Blue Pillar’s CEO Tom Willie.


“What we are doing in New York City is utilizing the emergency systems that have been existing for the past fifteen years and using them as a response mechanism to DR (demand response) and working with them to develop more sophisticated microgrids.”


This entails adding resources like renewables, CHP and, increasingly in the future, energy storage.

“One of the first things we do is put in a command and control data collection network that is completely independent of the resource at the facility. As they add things over time, we can use our control methodologies to optimize how all these things work together.”


“If there is an outage, we will make sure the generators start. A lot of what we do at Blue Pillar, is give them all of the early warning information they need on those systems to make sure that there is enough fuel in the gas tank; that the batteries are charged; that the generator is ready to start; as well completely automate the testing procedures,” he said.


Blue Pillar will be starting with two of New York’s hospitals, and expects to expand as they become a showpiece of what can be done.


The program is important enough to Con Edison, that the utility will pay 75% of the bill while these back-up generators are running.


Some Facilities, like military bases and universities, may be able to feed power to the grid.


This is not likely in the case of hospitals, but the can play a huge role by simply providing for their own needs.


These back-up power systems were the World’s first microgrid and served in that capacity long before the term was invented. Willie says that collectively, they are probably still the largest microgrid on our planet.


“There are over 75 GW of back-up generation capacity doing exactly what microgrid is intended to do, which is to turn on and switch off in order to automate power systems,” said Willie.


Blue Pillar is working with over 300 facilities nation-wide, more than a hundred of which are hospitals.