SANTA MARIA - Hospitals are always open and, therefore, always on; that means the facilities have an inherent need for electricity, to take care of patients.
One Central Coast Hospital is doing its part to create its own electricity with renewable resources, and it seems to be the prescription for a healthy planet.
It all began roughly ten years ago but only came to fruition in 2008, when a employees in the Environmental Care Committee from Marian Medical Center in Santa Maria visited the City Landfill.
They witnessed firsthand the burn-off of toxic gases from the landfill refuse. That's when Dennis Daniel, Operations Manager of Marian Medical Center, had an idea: "I saw that and thought we could re-use it. And then the conversation started at that point... What would it take to get the landfill gas to the hospital?"
Soon in the works was a partnership with the City of Santa Maria, the Landfill, and Southern California-based Janechek and Associates, a company that specializes in the development of cogeneration facilities utilizing landfill gas and other biogases.
Many years and miles of pipes later, the landfill's refuse gas finds itself at the "CoGen", or Co-Generation Plant, on Marian's Medical Campus; it powers the entire Hospital.
Nathan Jacobs is the Operations Manager of the Facility. He explains the process, "Basically, everything you throw away decomposes eventually."
The decomposition of garbage generates methane gas, which is a greenhouse gas that, when left untapped, can pollute the air, soil, and groundwater. The methane run-off is capped at the landfill and piped two miles to Marian's eco-friendly CoGen.
There, it is converted to clean electrical energy.
Alan Janechek, Developer of the CoGen, explains just how integral the plant has become, "This facility produces enough electricity to feed about 95% of the demands for the entire hospital."
Dennis Daniel, Director of Plant Operations for Marian Medical Center says everything under Marian's roof is powered by the CoGen: "Physiological monitors, all of our lighting, all of our electrical outlets... Printers copiers computers everything."
Even in just two short years in operation, the CoGen is leaving lasting results.
Daniel says the proof is in the numbers: "Our overall savings is between $150,000 to $200,000 dollars a year."
Sister Janet Corcoran says, Vice President of Mission Services, plays a large role in the environmentally-focused path that Marian is on. She agrees the benefits of the CoGen are twofold: "It saves us dollars, but, more importantly, it's helping out environment, our air, it's making it cleaner."
Before the CoGen was built, the gases were being flared-off or burned into the atmosphere. While the developers acknowledge that the gas is still being burned to be converted into electricity, the burn-off is more Earth-friendly and renewable through the engine of the CoGen.
Nathan Jacobs says, "We're burning it, too, so there is still emissions with it, and we have to follow certain rules and regulations, but instead of wasting it, you are getting something out of the byproduct."
Alan Janechek furthers the point by adding, "This is considered a renewable facility, and we actually generate renewable energy credits as part of the plan."