Designing the optimal hospital microgrid

This audio was created using Microsoft Azure Speech Services

This is the third in a four-post series on microgrids for hospitals. In my first post I mentioned how the news of power backup systems failing or running out of fuel during major storm events is causing many hospitals to reconsider their resiliency strategy. I also noted how hospitals continue to face budgetary pressures in the face of rising energy costs and environmental regulations, while needing to expand facilities and add more energy-intensive equipment.

These factors are now driving hospitals to adopt microgrid solutions to achieve greater resiliency, optimized energy costs, and improved sustainability. And the time is right, given that the overall cost has dropped by up to 30% in the last 5 years.

Hospital Microgrid White PaperI also briefly described the main components of a microgrid solution, including distributed energy assets (DER) – such as CHP, renewables, and energy storage – as well as the control system and advanced energy analytics. Finally, in my second post, I took a deeper dive into the many ways a microgrid delivers its benefits, which I recommend you have a look at.

Now, let’s assume a hospital management team is ready to start planning for an upgrade to a microgrid infrastructure. What needs to be considered to ensure an optimal design that delivers the maximum payback? It’s all about modeling and modularity.

Microgrid modeling helps ensure best outcomes

Designing a microgrid can be complex. You need the right architecture to meet your specific financial and operational goals, in the specific region where your facility is located. New tools based on advanced modeling algorithms are helping make this easier.

Modeling takes into account all constraints, from costs to functionality to project execution. It also considers all relevant inputs, such as:

  • Location and weather forecasting
  • Base energy consumption and load profiles
  • Electricity tariff structures, demand surcharges, and fuel costs (e.g. natural gas)
  • Costs for electrical and thermal generation, energy storage, operation, and maintenance
  • Energy uses: buy, self-generate, store, sell, etc.
  • Energy export limits or net-zero agreements

Using these inputs, the modeling tool determines the best mix and sizing of DER assets to meet the facility’s energy and thermal requirements throughout the year, while delivering the highest financial performance and shortest payback period.

The modeling tool can use the same algorithms that will be used in the microgrid’s operation, helping ensure optimal performance. In addition, the design model can be used as a ‘digital twin’. Not only can this help validate expected performance once in operation, it can also help in planning adaptations to site evolution, and support ‘what if’ scenarios (e.g. tariff optimization).

Go modular for simplicity and cost savings

Like many large infrastructures, each new microgrid has traditionally been custom engineered. This can be time consuming and costly. Thankfully, new breeds of solutions are making configured-to-order microgrids possible, based on predefined architectures and standardized, pre-packaged components.

For a ready-to-use solution, pre-engineered microgrid control centers have all the components needed to cover all required functions already installed. This includes control, power management, protection, energy metering, and power quality monitoring. These integrated cabinets oversee power distribution between the grid, onsite DER, and all critical and flexible loads. They are also designed for scalability, being suitable for small or large sites, as well as being adaptable to future expansion or adding more DER.

Next, microgrid management software can now offer pre-engineered algorithms. This means that the most common functions of a microgrid have been standardized to ensure reliable performance. This includes everything from managing grid disconnect/connect transition to managing all DER in grid-connected and island modes, and from demand response participation to determining the best times to consume, store, or sell renewable energy.

Ultimately, a modular approach to both microgrid hardware and software is helping make hospital microgrids easier to design, install, support, and adapt, while lowering the cost of maintenance. It’s also making them more reliable, due to pre-tested and validated architectures.

In my next post, we’ll look at the final piece of the puzzle: how to make a hospital microgrid affordable to implement and operate. To learn more about the topic of this post, download the white paper “Building resilient, efficient microgrids for hospitals: from design to financing.” Schneider Electric provides complete microgrid expertise and integrated solutions for hospitals. Discover these at our microgrid solutions page.

Tags: , , ,