Advancing System Resilience at Milwaukee Regional Medical Center
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Beginning in 2012, the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center (MRMC) team started down a path to modernize its thermal energy systems, ultimately selecting Ever-Green Energy as its energy systems partner. This complex project was taken on to accomplish big things for the health care campus, and at its core was a focus on reliability, cost efficiency, and long-term resilience.
Ever-Green Energy was brought into the project as the operations partner in 2015 to guide the development and start-up operations, working closely with MRMC to build a team that would work alongside the construction process, be there as the long-term service provider, and contribute engineering and business advisory services to the plant and campus energy assets.
Milwaukee Regional Medical Center (MRMC) is a 250-acre health care campus in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin comprised of six operating entities including Froedtert Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, The Medical College of Wisconsin, BloodCenter of Wisconsin, Milwaukee County Behavioral Health, and Curative Care. MRMC provides central planning, shared services, and infrastructure to its members.
Built by Milwaukee County in 1955 as a coal-fired steam system with steam turbine electric generators, with chilled water production added in the 70s, the Milwaukee County Power Plant was later purchased by the local electric utility in the late 90s. The thermal plant serves the MRMC campus with steam and chilled water that heats and cools most of the buildings on campus.
Seeing the opportunity for cost savings, improved service, better reliability, and personalized management, MRMC Thermal acquired the system in April of 2016.
A FORWARD OUTLOOK
With a vision for the campus system’s future, the MRMC Thermal project had these goals:
- Improve reliability by investing in plant and distribution infrastructure.
- Improve resilience with a second plant and redundant distribution infrastructure to provide continuous supply of critical thermal service with geographic source diversity and on-site alternate fuel backup.
- Improve the environmental profile of the system by eliminating coal as a fuel source and increasing system efficiencies.
- Create capacity for growth including the new Center for Advanced Care at Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin professional office building.
- Engage member organizations in decision-making from the source to the user.
- Stabilize rates for steam and chilled water.
Meeting the project goals and keeping energy reliability intact was no small task. In just 18 months of construction, the project team installed temporary natural gas boilers while demolishing three existing coal-fired boilers and one dated natural gas boiler; installed four permanent natural gas boilers, emergency diesel generators, and fuel oil storage; upgraded electrical feeders and switchgear; replaced five absorption chillers with three centrifugal chillers; and installed new cooling towers.
A CUT ABOVE
In retrospect, the Ever-Green team has identified several key components to the progress and quality of the project outcomes.
- TECHNOLOGY. When undergoing significant modernization, there is an opportunity to put best-in-class technology into a facility. It is critical to make the same investments in controls and controls programming. The strategically designed control schemes at MRMC Thermal are driving efficiency and automation, which allows the team to focus on the big picture operation of the system and driving further efficiency.
- TEAM. Hiring an entire operations team in a short window of time can be an enormous challenge, but hiring the right people will make all the difference. Much of our team in Milwaukee has been there from the early stages of this project, helping to guide key decisions and investments that would work reliably and efficiently once in operation.
- PARTNERS. The open communication, mutual respect, and trust established between the project partners enabled us to efficiently reach project milestones and successes. Staying committed to their priorities of efficiency, reliability, and cost effectiveness, MRMC Thermal supported Ever-Green’s technology and systems recommendations to meet these goals.
- EARLY CONVERSATIONS. This project is a great reminder to all involved about the importance of starting conversations with both operators and end users as early as possible. Getting the operator on board early enough to be part of the requirements build, so they are able to get a proper design is key. Because these systems are such a long-term investment, late additions can be costly.
The success of this undertaking is largely a result of the team’s knowledge of this technology, the experience and dedication of the staff, and mutual respect and commitment to outcomes by the project partners. In less than 18 months, MRMC Thermal underwent a full overhaul and actualized its goal of establishing a cost-effective, reliable thermal system for its campus. The facility is designed to accommodate expansion, so as MRMC achieves its vision for campus growth, we will be able to advise and enable growth while minimizing their carbon footprint.