Natural gas-powered generators that can keep Citizens Medical Center running during a power outage should be in place before the next hurricane season.
The county-owned hospital will add a second set of generators to supplement its existing system.
The new generators can supply full power to the hospital when it loses electrical power. During and after Hurricane Harvey, the hospital’s diesel generators could only provide emergency power, which was enough to keep some, but not all, of the 338-bed facility operational.
The loss of power, along with the shutdown of the city’s water system, meant that the hospital couldn’t operate at full capacity or run air conditioning after Harvey left sweltering summer heat in its wake.
In all, the hospital evacuated 134 patients before and after Harvey made landfall, according to hospital documents.
Representatives from Enchanted Rock, the company that owns, installs and maintains the generators, updated the county hospital’s governing board with their plans for the generators at a meeting Wednesday.
Eric Meyer, a director with the company, said he expected the generators to be installed and connected by mid-April. Construction should begin in January, he said.
The Houston company doesn’t sell generators, but instead offers reliable power as a service. Citizens will pay for a fraction of the generators’ installation cost, and Enchanted Rock will pay for the rest, as well as any expenses for maintaining the generators.
The company’s contract with Citizens requires a one-time payment of $565,000 from the hospital, which is about 20% of the system’s total cost. The agreement is for 15 years.
Meyer said the company makes money by selling excess power back to the Texas electrical grid when needed.
In peak times, Meyer said, the ERCOT grid, the electrical grid that supports the majority of Texas, doesn’t have enough power for the entire state.
Enchanted Rock’s system works by taking Citizens’ energy demand off the grid, thus providing ERCOT with additional capacity. ERCOT then pays Enchanted Rock for the additional capacity, he said.
Companies, including H-E-B and Buc-ee’s, use the company’s natural gas-fired generators, and the company says it powered 21 stores in Texas during Hurricane Harvey for five days.
In addition to the new generators, Citizens also decided to drill an emergency water well after Harvey so it could continue to keep its air conditioning running even if the city’s water system were to stop working again.
Meyer said he expected seven generators to be installed on Citizens’ campus, but said additional generators could be needed after they evaluate the demand that the hospital’s expanded emergency room will need.