Grossmont Healthcare District, Sharp Grossmont Hospital celebrate completion of Central Energy Plant

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Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa and the Grossmont Healthcare District (GHD), the public agency that serves as landlord of the hospital’s buildings and property on behalf of taxpayers, recently celebrated the completion of the hospital’s taxpayer-funded Central Energy Plant (CEP).

Construction of the over $50 million new 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 normal electric bill to San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) of about $180,000 per month is now zero. Increased natural gas purchases and other mandated payments to SDG&E still result in overall long-term savings to the operations of Sharp Grossmont Hospital.

“We’re very proud that the Central Energy Plant is now fully operational and the hospital is officially not reliant on the electrical grid,” said Michael Emerson, GHD board president. “For decades into the future, the new CEP will save millions of dollars. Even in the event of an outage or other emergency, the hospital will continue to operate as needed.”

In addition to Emerson, other speakers at the Dec. 20 event included San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob and Dave Grundstrom, chair, Grossmont Hospital Corporation (GHC). GHC is the operating entity for the hospital lease agreement between Sharp HealthCare and GHD.

According to Grundstrom, “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. We now have the capacity to sell surplus electricity back to the utility company. ”

Jacob’s supervisorial district includes the East County. “I’m very proud of the efforts by the Grossmont Healthcare District and Sharp Grossmont Hospital,” she said. “Every taxpayer 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. In addition, I’m especially pleased that this new Central Energy Plant will save millions of dollars in energy costs, plus reduce the hospital’s emission of greenhouse gas pollutants by 90 percent. 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.”

Grossmont Healthcare District Board of Directors with County Supervisor Dianne Jacob at the "ribbon cutting" event for the Central Energy Plant, December 20, 2016Grossmont Healthcare District Board of Directors with County Supervisor Dianne Jacob at the “ribbon cutting” event for the Central Energy Plant, December 20, 2016

The three-story, 18,400-square-foot building, visible from the State Route 125 freeway on the southwest side of the hospital campus, also houses a new $15 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.

The CEP building was constructed 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. It took 120 concrete trucks delivering more than 1,120 cubic yards of concrete to lay the foundation. McCarthy Building Co. was the general contractor for the building’s construction, including site construction work, excavation and shoring.

On the north side of the CEP, a sign declares “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.

"Flipping the switch" to celebrate the operation of the Central Energy Plant

“Flipping the switch” to celebrate the operation of the Central Energy Plant, December 20, 2016

Taxpayer-funded construction is continuing at the publicly-owned, 524-bed hospital which opened in 1955. Other Proposition G construction projects, as included in the 2006 ballot measure, includes ongoing construction of a 71,000-square-foot Heart and Vascular (H&V) Center and the recently completed renovation of floors two through five of the seven-story East Tower building, originally constructed in 1974. 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.

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This article was updated January 24, 2017 to clarify that although the purchase of electricity from the electrical power grid is now zero in a normal month, there are increased natural gas purchases and other mandated payments to SDG&E. Overall, this still results in long-term cost savings to the operations of Sharp Grossmont Hospital. For more information, please review our FAQ document.

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