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February 10, 2014 - Energy-Efficient System Results in Significant Savings for USA Medical Center

An innovative new hot water system, funded by an Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) from the Department of Energy, has already resulted in substantial energy savings for the University of South Alabama Medical Center.

Natural gas annual usage comparisons from Mobile Gas Service Corporation for the 2012-2013 season of Oct. 1 through Sept. 31 showed a reduction in consumption of $103,829, or 90 percent for the same period in 2011-2012. The same time frame from 2012–2013 usage showed an average $247,500 annual reduction from the period of 2004-2010.

In 2010, USA Medical Center was awarded the $750,000 EECBG grant through a bundled application from the cities of Saraland, Creola and Citronelle. The two projects submitted were the initial backbone of a campus-wide Building Automation System project and a 200-ton Heat Recovery Chiller project to create hot water for the hospital’s closed loop hot water heating system.

Each of the projects was estimated at $500,000, with USA Medical Center contributing the additional $250,000. During the summer of 2012, both projects were completed and operational.

The former hot water system designed in the early 1960’s included gas-fired hot water boilers that were considered to be less than 50 percent efficient based on age and wear-and-tear. The new 5-stage, 200-ton heat recovery chiller and the 30-ton unit utilize cooling tower water from the chill water plant, extract heat from the cooling tower water and transfer that heat to the closed loop hot water heating system and domestic hot water system. They then send cooler condensated water back to the cooling tower, creating an additional energy efficiency for that processed water.

Essentially the process takes energy previously produced by the chill water plant and utilized the heat prior to being evaporated by the cooling tower. The Mobile Gas Service Corporation 2012 vs. 2013 heating season bill comparison for the six month period of October through April depict the reduction in heating expense of $103,829 a reduction of 90 percent for the same time period.

Based on the first year’s heating season compared to the previous year, the overall return on investment for the Heat Recovery Chiller project expense is projected to be five years. The Medical Center’s return on investment will be 1.2 years.

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