California hospital builds resiliency against power shutoffs

The Adventist Health Feather River Health Center in Paradise, California, recently added a multi-pronged system to guard against electric service interruptions. The system includes power generation and storage capabilities, along with software-based controls that increase operating efficiency. Blymyer Engineers completed the electrical and structural engineering for the system, as well as assisting with the design for the controls. ENGIE North America led the project. The system includes: 

• 424.8kW DC/ 356kW AC photovoltaic solar canopies that generate power as they shade parking areas

• Energy storage from a 1MWh battery system 

• Additional backup generation from a 250kw diesel generator 

• Advanced controls that enable the Health Center to shift to the backup system in less than a second

“The Feather River Health Center now has a reliable source of renewable energy in the event of power service interruptions, which are increasingly common in California,” says Blymyer President Mike Rantz. “Backup systems for hospitals have traditionally relied almost exclusively on diesel generators. At Feather River, the combination of solar and energy storage adds renewable energy to the mix. It’s also cost-effective, with the solar canopies generating power for everyday use.”

Preventing fires with power shutoffs 

The Health Center’s emergency backup system is a microgrid that lets the Health Center keep operating even when the local utility operator shuts off power for extended periods. This is a critical capability in California due to public safety power shutoffs. Public safety shutoffs occur when the utility operator intentionally shuts off power to an area in an effort to prevent wildfires. A wildfire destroyed a significant portion of the town of Paradise in 2018, highlighting the fact that the Health Center is located in an area likely to lose power when fire risk is high. 

“Microgrids give organizations the ability to keep operating even when power from the main grid is shut off,” says Stanislav Gorbis, a project manager with Blymyer. “A microgrid like the one at Feather River Health Center requires the engineering of a complex system that has to deliver in a crisis. Our design solution distills all that complexity into an intuitive interface that operations people at the Health Center use to manage the system. It gives the Health Center access to renewable energy every day, and it’s ready to deliver the power needed in an emergency.”