Growth Prospect: Hospitals’ New Green Energy

Posted on August 10, 2011


What does a healthcare facility do when it has maxed out its creativity in search of savings at its campus?

After a hospital has built responsibly, and instituted sustainable initiatives like commissioningcampus-wide lighting and HVAC adjustment, and tapped out recycling—all of which offer substantial long-term savings—green energy may be a legitimate option. 

In Buildings magazine’s energy saving products issue, which I also referenced last year, some neat ideas were presented, including a small wind generator which can be retrofitted to a hospital roof. Wind, solar,…we have heard of the likes of these before.

Just recently, I read of another suggestion:  fryer grease!  Yes, this has been discussed before too, though maybe not in hospitals. Still, for those hospitals that do a brisk deep frying business on their campuses, I do not exactly see many of them collecting, straining and storing used cooking oil, and then retrofitting combustion motors to use the stuff. Creative, but not practical.

One idea I do find intriguing for hospitals is piezoelectricity, or electricity gained from the friction or collision of two surfaces. This concept is being tested on roadways where cars produce electrical current simply by driving on a road with built-in pressure pads that generate electricity. The real promise with this technology is that it does not take a lot of weight or force to generate usable current. This means patient, equipment and employee traffic in a corridor could be generating electricity. Visitors walking in a lobby can generate electricty. Cars in parking garages can assist in helping the hospital pays its power bills.

And there are other innovative ideas being studied or utilized, mainly in Europe. In Denmark, exercise bicycles help produce electricity for a hotel. In the Netherlands, the kinetic energy of revolving doors is harvested. In Sweden and France, excess body heat in subways is sucked out and exchanged to produce hot water. All of these ideas have a potential application to healthcare environments. Europe has been leading in alternative energy technologies, and it makes sense for U.S. hospitals to take cues from overseas for energy innovation, especially in hospitals.