Norton Healthcare invested $18 million in thermal storage and a cutting-edge hybrid energy plant at Norton Audubon Hospital.

Although it’s a hefty investment, the hospital system's energy initiative will help save nearly $1 million a year in energy costs, using natural gas to heat and cool the hospital instead of electric.

“We constructed a new hybrid energy plant that combines gas air-cooled chillers and a thermal ice storage system that produces cooling capacity for the building,” said Anthony Mathis, Director of Energy at Norton Healthcare. “Ice is made at night when utility costs are at their lowest, since demand is down. And then ice is melted during the day for the hospital’s cooling needs during the peak hours when utilities are at their maximum cost.

"In addition, the system runs off of natural gas. The heat generated by the natural gas engines is then collected and stored to be reused by a heat recovery process that provides heat and hot water for the building. We should reduce our emissions, which is our carbon footprint, close to 30 to 40 percent.”

The new plant also makes it easier to individually control the temperature in each room using a computer, which is a luxury for patients but a necessity for surgery.

“If room A is 65 degrees, but room B needs to be 72 degrees, the addition… gives us the opportunity to control the rooms as a nurse or as the patient wants it,” Mathis said.

Norton Healthcare started the energy initiative at Norton Audubon Hospital because of its aging infrastructure and rising energy costs. The initiative has resulted in reduced energy and maintenance costs, a smaller carbon footprint and better indoor air quality.

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