Texas Medical Center Saves Lots Of Energy

For large institutions, combined heat and power systems can be an effective way to capture and use energy that might otherwise be lost – not unlike regenerative braking in hybrid cars. The case in point? Houston’s Texas Medical Center, which recently installed a 48 megawatt combined heat and power system, courtesy of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

This $10 million investment in federal funds is expected to save the facility $200 million in energy costs over the next 15 years – which is a pretty big number, even by Texas‘ standards.

Thermal Energy Corporation

image via TECO

That’s a natural consequence of the fact that this combined heat and power system will be serving a really, really big medical center – the world’s largest, in fact.  It’s currently home to 14 hospitals and 21 academic institutions; this sprawling complex even has its own electrical company, called the Thermal Energy Corporation (TECO), where the new combined heat and power system has been installed.

Combined heat and power plants are ideal for large facilities that need a lot of heat and electricity to operate efficiently. Systems like this channel energy that would be wasted as heat by a conventional generation process back into productive uses — such as  air conditioning, space heating and sterilization in the form of steam, chilled water or even extra electricity.

According to TECO, this federally-funded efficiency overhaul has supported more than 1,000 direct and indirect jobs in manufacturing, engineering and construction, including approximately 400 jobs directly associated with the combined heat and power plant. The plant now supports the largest district chilled-water system in the nation.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.