Thanks to funding from the Recovery Act, the University of South Alabama Medical Center is saving energy while providing better care to its patients. | Photo courtesy of the University of South Alabama Medical Center.
More than five years after the Recovery Act was first signed into law, local communities are still feeling its impact. In Alabama, a Recovery Act grant is helping a hospital save energy while providing better care to its patients.
In 2010, the coastal cities of Citronelle, Creola and Saraland were jointly awarded Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funding to complete energy efficiency retrofits to the University of South Alabama Medical Center, the region’s only designated level one trauma center. The grant, which was awarded by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Energy Division, was the largest grant to a single project site from Alabama's state energy office.
The $1.1 million project included energy efficiency upgrades to the hospital’s heating and cooling systems. The hospital replaced its outdated hot water boilers with a 350-ton heat recovery chillier, a system that can provide a building's heating and cooling needs more efficiently. In addition, the hospital also updated its heating and cooling controls with a direct digital control building energy management system. The system allows the hospital to strategically spread out energy use to lower peak demand charges paid to utility companies.
In the first year of operation of the heat recovery chiller and energy management system, the University of South Alabama Medical Center saved nearly $300,000 in natural gas and electricity costs while also helping to reduce its carbon pollution. According to the Medical Center, the cost of the upgrades could be recouped in just over three years. The hospital is reinvesting the savings into patient care, allowing them to hire and retain additional employees to serve patients more efficiently.