Magazine article Health Facilities Management

Clean Air Challenge: New EPA Regs Will Affect Hospital Power Systems

Magazine article Health Facilities Management

Clean Air Challenge: New EPA Regs Will Affect Hospital Power Systems

Article excerpt

No other facility type has as much at stake as a hospital to maintain a consistent power supply. For decades, high-horsepower diesel engine generators have supplied the mission-critical backup power to health care facilities throughout the world.

However, recent regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have placed limits on allowable exhaust emissions and changed the rules applying to certain types of system operations.

The responsibility for compliance lies both with the owner and engine manufacturer.

Emissions reductions

Hospitals may be more accustomed to federal and state regulations than any other industry. Whether it's the disposal of toxic waste or compliance with the International Building Code's seismic and fire protection regulations, hospitals and health care providers always have been at the top of the list for the development of regulations.

The EPA added to this list in 2011 by introducing its Tier 4 interim (Tier 4I) certification requirements, ushering in tighter emission reductions for high-horsepower diesel generator sets.

Of particular interest to those who rely on these mission-critical generators for emergency backup is the regulation's stance on emergency use. Tier 4I requires all operators who seek to run new generators for nonemergency use--whether for extended long-term testing and maintenance, demand response, storm avoidance, peak shaving or prime power--to deploy units that meet the new emission-reduction levels.

For many hospital operators, the new regulations are a departure from the previous grandfather clause that allowed unlimited nonemergency operation under the EPA's previous Tier 2 certification for high-horsepower generator sets.

The EPA established defined operating limits when establishing Tier 4 standards many years ago. In January 2013, the EPA revised the language defining limits like the 100-hour rule as it applies to both new and existing generator engines.

For some hospitals, the time has come when achieving Tier 4I certification outweighs the negative impacts of potential operating fines, and the prospect of readying for future emission reductions becomes a near-term priority.

Hospitals located in regions where air quality is below national levels already may be subject to stricter emission-reduction levels as dictated by local air quality review boards. These areas, known as non-attainment zones, may require hospitals to deploy the best available controls technology for diesel emissions--and operators need to be especially aware of the penalties for violating these regional standards.

In other areas where power grid capacity creates high demand, these emission solutions increase the efficiency and return on emergency system capital investment by allowing standby system use during periods of peak demand when utility rates are higher.

EPA's evolution

Since the inception of the Clean Air Act in 1970, the EPA has sought to reduce harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM), carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions produced by diesel-powered engines. With regard to high-horsepower stationary diesel engines, the EPA's Tier 4 clean air initiative is being implemented in two phases. The current Tier 4I regulation that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2011, was the first step toward implementing the Tier 4 Final (Tier 4F) regulations that become effective on Jan. 1, 2015.

Tier 4I mandated significant reductions of NOx and PM exhaust emissions, and Tier 4F will restrict emissions even further for high-horsepower generator sets (see table, Page 46).

To help mission-critical industries achieve Tier 4I certification, some generator manufacturers began offering Tier 4I generator sets in advance of the 2011 effective date. Similarly, a few manufacturers have performed the necessary testing to obtain Tier 4F certification as soon as the EPA initiates the approval process in January 2014, one year prior to its effective date in January 2015. …

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