"Island mode/black start" allows BWFH to provide full healthcare services during a natural disaster or long utility outage

Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital is one of the very few in Massachusetts whose cogeneration power plant is capable of “island mode/black start.” That means, in the event of a natural disaster or long utility outage, our cogeneration power plant can operate and provide the hospital with all the electricity needed to function normally allowing us to continue to provide full healthcare services to patients.

“The addition of island mode/black start capabilities for our cogeneration system is an important step in strengthening our resiliency and ability to provide for our patients, visitors and staff during emergent events,” says Executive Director of Facilities and Support Services Ed Pitts, CHFM, CLSS-HC.

BWFH installed and commissioned a cogeneration plant in July of 2016, giving the hospital the ability to create its own electricity using natural gas. Cogeneration plants allow BWFH to create electricity while eliminating typical transmission charges that are part of all electric bills from the utilities. They are also considered part of renewable energy programs and as such BWFH is eligible to create and benefit from renewable energy credit programs.

However, Pitts explains that even with all of the capabilities and benefits of our cogeneration plant, BWFH faced some road blocks. “Due to the age and capabilities of our systems tying the cogeneration plant to the external utility systems we were not able to run the plant during external losses of power from the utility. The electric vault project that was just completed has eliminated this impediment and we are now able to run our plant fully independent (in island mode) and without input for the external utility supplier. Black start means we are able to start the cogeneration plant engines without requiring power from an external source.”

Pitts continues, “As always, our emergency generators are at the ready to provide power to our life safety systems in the event of a loss of power. With the addition of our cogeneration plant simultaneously running our other electrical loads, we will continue to have the ability to provide exceptional service to our patients, visitors and staff with minimal impact to operations.”

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