Upper Chesapeake gets $1.5 million from BGE for hospital power plant

The new tri-generation plant at University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air got a big boost this week from a Baltimore Gas & Electric program to save energy.

Harford County's central hospital received $1.5 million in incentives from BGE's Smart Energy Savers Program, the energy company announced this week.

The combined heat-and-power energy efficiency project is expected to save Upper Chesapeake $9 million over 20 years and generate about 13 million kilowatt hours annually, according to a BGE statement.

The new plant, which has been operational since mid-July, runs on natural gas, hospital facilities director Don Allik said.

Together with an existing generator that uses diesel fuel, the hospital will be able to keep about 90 percent of the in-patient hospital functional during a major power outage, including having air-conditioning, Allik said.

The system, however, is not connected to some outpatient and office buildings on the hospital campus, he said.

Allik noted it is much cheaper to produce electricity from natural gas off the power grid than to buy it from a utility like BGE.

The plant also re-uses waste-heat energy, making it more efficient and further lowering costs, he said.

The plant is next to the central power plant, in the southwest corner of the hospital, he said.

Officials from Upper Chesapeake Health, BGE and Clark Construction were joined Monday by U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin to recognize the hospital for being the first recipient of the BGE installation incentives.

Cardin said the system is "a perfect example of how our tax code can encourage much-needed energy efficiency improvements."

According to BGE, Smart Energy Savers "offers financial incentives and technical assistance to BGE customers in an effort to promote energy efficiency throughout Maryland."

The utility, which has more than 100,000 residential and commercial customers in Harford County, says the program was launched in 2007 to help customers "reduce energy use."

Upper Chesapeake, which merged with University of Maryland Medical System last year, announced in November it was building the tri-generation plant with a partner and would lease it back for the first eight years.

That project also received support from Harford County, which approved with a payment in lieu of taxes on the facility for 20 years.

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