City and state officials joined Baystate Health representatives to break ground at the site of the medical center's future heat and power plant.

Baystate Medical Center begins work on $27M power plant in Springfield’s North End

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

By Jim Kinney |
The Republican

SPRINGFIELD — Baystate Medical Center will be able to operate for 30-days off the electrical grid once its new, $27-million combined heat and power plant is completed by December 2017.

“We will be able to operate as an island,” said Sean Gouvin, director of facilities planning and engineering for Baystate Health.

Baystate’s existing power plant dates back to the 1930s.

That’s critical, said Baystate CEO Dr. Mark Keroack, Baystate CEO. Baystate has to operate through disasters man made or natural. Baystate is the region’s largest employer, its only Level I trauma center, only Level III neonatal intensive care unit and only cardiac intervention center.

“We need to keep the lights on 24/7, and this plant is going to do that,” Keroack said.

Currently, the hospital can last only 4 days off the grid.

Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said Baystate must keep working for the city to remain safe.

U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, said the project is not only about safety and security but it also speaks to America’s changing energy economy. The natural gas boom from the shale lands of the Appalachians is making the United States more energy independent and it is providing a bridge from oil to the renewable sources of energy in the future.

“This is a neat project,” Neal said.

James J. Reed, New England Regional Administrator for the U.S Department of Housing and urban Development said the project is a direct result of Springfield’s recovery efforts from the June 2011 tornado.

“The project here at the power plant makes the city more resilient,” Reed said

Officials hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking Wednesday for the plant at 257 Marvin St. in the city’s North End. The gas-fired plant is being paid for in part with in part by a $5 million resiliency grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and by a $2.8 million grant from the Department of Energy Resources. Eversource contributed $5 million to the project and Baystate Health is investing $14.4 million.

The health care giant estimated it will see a $2.7 million in annual cost savings from the new plant. It has a 4.6-megawatt generator- that’s enough power for about 4,600 average suburban homes.

It will reduce harmful greenhouse gases by more than 13,000 metric tons annually and produce water, steam and electricity, according to Baystate officials. That’s the equivalent of taking 3,000 cars off the road.

Gouvin said the natural gas will run a turbine to generate power. Excess heat from that turbine will be conserved and used to generate steam to heat the hospital complex.

Work has been ongoing on for weeks. The structural steel will be up around Christmas, the turbine, which was tested Wednesday in San Diego, will arrive in the Spring.

Once the new plant is up and running, the existing 1930s plant will be used only in emergencies and during the new plant’s annual two-week maintenance shutdown, Gouvin said.

The old plant burns natural gas or oil, depending on availability.

Baystate will also keep its connections to the regional power grid, Gouvin said.

In October, Baystate Health completed a round of layoffs totaling 323 jobs. The cutbacks were aimed closing a persistent budget gap caused by inadequate Medicaid funding.

Keroack said Wednesday that it is odd timing for Baystate to make such a big investment when it is tightening its belt.

But he said Baystate needed to take advantage of the HUD disaster relief money while it was available. The opportunity to finance the project with federal money is now.

“There are certain things you do just to stay in business,” Keroack said. “Replacing a power plant and a heating plant is a once-in-30 years project.”

Waldron Engineering of Exeter, New Hampshire, and Cianbro Corporation of Pittsfield are building the plant.