Pioneering California’s First Medical Center Microgrid

Kaiser Permanente is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2020 and “carbon net positive” by 2025 by buying enough clean energy and carbon offsets to remove more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than it emits. In this effort, Kaiser Permanente has been focusing on integrating more on-site energy to reduce energy costs, increase facility resiliency, and support its sustainability goals. Kaiser Permanente’s Richmond Medical Center was the first hospital in California to implement a microgrid that connects renewable energy and battery storage to a pre-existing, diesel-fueled backup power system in a hospital. As the first of its kind, this project demonstrated the ability of a microgrid to support and sustain the functions of a healthcare facility and to overcome barriers to its deployment. As a result, Richmond Medical Center stands to save an additional 2.63 MWh of energy per year, resulting in annual savings as high as $394,000.

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  • Financing

    The California Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program supports innovations and strategies to advance clean energy technologies that help California meet its energy goals. One of those goals includes making better use of locally available renewable energy to increase resiliency and address climate change impacts such as increased fires, severe storms, and heatwaves. The CEC put out an RFP for integrating a renewable microgrid for a medical center and Charge Bliss was awarded the $4.77 million grant. Charge Bliss partnered with Kaiser Permanente and led the development, design, and engineering of the microgrid.

  • Process

    The Richmond Medical Center was selected due to its strong economic benefits, previous power reliability problems, and the proximity to the central utility plant, all of which helped balance additional expenditures. The microgrid system includes a 250-kW solar power system installed on top of the medical center’s 5-level parking garage, a 1-MW battery storage unit, smart inverters, and a microgrid controller.

    The solar panels were joined electrically to meet the direct current port voltage requirements of the single centralized inverter concrete block wall battery. Inverter rooms were constructed for heat isolation and long-term battery performance.

    The battery storage was designed to store 1 MWh of energy in batteries, which can provide a minimum 3-hour backup window of power supply to the life safety branch of operations which includes emergency lights and alarms. When backup generators are not available or in the case of an extended emergency where diesel supply is interrupted, the microgrid would allow the hospital to operate in “island” mode separate from the grid.

    Furthermore, the battery storage is paired with intelligent controllers that enable the facility to take advantage of demand response programs. Up to 45% of the medical center’s summer electric bill comes from demand charges, with the rest coming from usage and fixed charges. The controller resides in on-site computers at a control design facility and performs automated functions including energy arbitrage, photovoltaic (PV) power quality regulation, time-shifting of PV energy use, and reduction of peak facility loads. With progressive tuning, the team has reached 140 kW of demand reduction, equating to approximately 20-25% reduction of peak load.

  • Outcomes

    By improving operational efficiency by as much as 20%, the Richmond Medical Center stands to save an additional 2.63 MWh of energy per year, resulting in annual savings as high as $394,000. These savings include peak-period utility demand charge reductions. Additionally, there is an opportunity to participate in utility automated demand response (ADR) programs where the medical center stands to gain $40,000 to $80,000 per year in payment. All of the California investor-owned utilities have initiated ADR programs wherein a participant agrees to reduce net site load a defined amount (kW), for a minimum period (1-4 hours), for a specific number of events per season or year, and based on the timing of advanced notification (day before, four hours before, one hour before). Payment is generated from the utility to the participant based on the parameters selected. The use of the microgrid is also expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 263 tons of carbon dioxide per year.

    The microgrid project has generated an increased interest in battery storage at facilities across Kaiser’s portfolio, particularly medical office buildings. At the Richmond Medical Center, the microgrid now provides sustainable emergency power to critical systems in the event of a widespread outage, reduces the facility’s carbon footprint, and reduces utility bills.

    Moving towards the next stage in the evolution of microgrids, Kaiser is going to continue to work closely with the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD). Their partnership with the Richmond Medical Center was an important component to the project’s success and the installation is now being studied by OSHPD to determine whether similar microgrids should be recommended elsewhere.

  • Measuring Success

    Project partners aimed to realize three broad-based objectives via the Kaiser Permanente microgrid:

    1. Identify obstacles to healthcare facility microgrids;
    2. Demonstrate the value of microgrids to utility ratepayers; and
    3. Develop a microgrid controller to demonstrate use cases.

    Kaiser Permanente is currently progressing towards its goal to become carbon neutral by 2020 and “net positive” by 2025 and has produced more than 153 MW of off-site renewables and 30 MW of on-site solar to date.



Kaiser Permanente’s Richmond Medical Center was the first hospital in California to implement a microgrid that connects renewable energy and battery storage to a pre-existing, diesel-fueled backup power system in a hospital. As the first of its kind, this project demonstrated the ability of a microgrid to support and sustain the functions of a healthcare facility and to overcome barriers to its deployment.

ORGANIZATION TYPE

Healthcare

BARRIER

Identifying Energy-Saving Technologies, Resilience

CHALLENGE

Identifying and evaluating energy saving technologies that enhance power reliability, save energy, and reduce emissions

SOLUTION

Kaiser Permanente implements first renewable-energy-powered microgrid in California.

OUTCOME

By improving operational efficiency by as much as 20%, the Richmond Medical Center stands to save an additional 2.63 MWh of energy per year, resulting in annual savings as high as $394,000.