Short term pressure to fight the coronavirus, combined with the long term need to adapt to new emissions regulations means that hospital procurement teams need to act quickly to futureproof their backup power machinery. Here Jason Harryman, UK Sales and Business Development Manager at power systems expert Finning UK & Ireland, explains why it may be the right time to upgrade your backup diesel generator.

Fighting a pandemic

Now, more than ever, hospitals need access to reliable, secure power. In the wake of COVID-19, the UK has seen a rise in the number of field hospitals that demand temporary power. With provisions made for some 16,000 extra beds in temporary hospitals across the UK, a resilient power supply will be vital in powering critical-care equipment including ventilators, oxygen supplies, beds, heaters and lighting.

Temporary field hospitals often need to combine backup generators with the existing high voltage (HV) supply coming from the substation, connecting them to a distribution panel integrated with an uninterrupted power supply (UPS). This feeds a buzz bar with tap-offs for power in each service zone in the hospital, along with supply to the many miles of trunking used to provide power outlets to each bed cubicle.

Don’t obsolete your generator

While the need for temporary power is short term, and the world will eventually normalise after the pandemic, fixed sites like existing hospitals will still need to address the ongoing battle against climate change and will need to adapt to more stringent emissions regulations.

Taking a longer-term view, hospital facilities managers will need to adapt to new emissions regulations that came into force in 2018. The medium combustion plant directive (MCPD) aims to regulate emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulates from plant machinery including generators, boilers and turbines.

The MCPD specifically targets medium-sized plants typically used in hospitals and other sites where the combustion plant has a thermal input between one and 50 MWth. While the directive came into force for new medium combustion plants from December 2018, it will apply to existing medium combustion plants greater than 5 MWth from January 2024, and to existing medium combustion plants between 1–5 MWth from 2029.

While existing plants, such as hospitals, won’t be affected for another four to nine years from now, the fact that the lifecycle of a typical generator may be anywhere from ten to 20 years means that facilities managers may need to take action now to avoid any future non-compliance and obsolescence.

There are exemptions for existing backup generators that run for less than 50 hours per year. Standby generators, which automatically switch to back-up power in the event of a mains outage, are also exempt from the MCPD, but may still need to be registered with a permit.

Diesel is still one of the most efficient fuels for generators and even ones that are required to run 24/7 can fall within the MCPD’s emissions limits. For example, Finning’s range of Cat 3516 diesel generators have been engineered to reduce the air intake temperature, resulting in a more efficient combustion cycle, while simultaneously lowering NOx production.

This design has the added benefit of increasing the power output of the engine for its size. This will come as a welcome relief for facilities managers at a time when hospital power demands are growing and floor space on site isn’t getting any bigger.

To find out more about your diesel generator upgrade options, visit the Finning Power Solutions website.