ATLANTA - The vulnerabilities of the country's energy infrastructure were highlighted during recent weather disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina. "As these disasters illustrated, the safety and well-being of the people and the economy are severely impacted if the electrical infrastructure is lost for an extended period of time," Richard Sweetser said. "One way to avoid the failure is through use of combined heat and power (CHP) systems."

Sweetser will chair a seminar, "Critical Facilities, Business Continuity and CHP," at ASHRAE's 2006 Annual Meeting, June 24-28, in Quebec City. It takes place from 7:45-9:15 a.m. Sunday, June 25. The seminar is sponsored by ASHRAE's technical committee on cogeneration systems.

The session highlights the CHP plant operation used by Baptist Memorial Hospital, which was the only hospital in the Jackson, Miss., metropolitan area to remain nearly 100 percent operational during Hurricane Katrina and its immediate aftermath.

On Aug. 29, 2005, the hurricane hit Jackson and the city's main power grid failed, the hospital's standby power was enabled, and city water lost. Three hours later, the connection to grid was restored, the hospital load shed about 1.2 megawatts, and pumping trucks were supplying water to physical plant. Five hours after that, the grid again became unstable and the hospital switched to island mode and ran only with its 3.2 megawatt cooling, heating, and power system. For the next 52 hours, Baptist Medical Center was the only hospital in the Jackson metro area to be nearly 100 percent operational.

Another example is the blackout that hit the Great Lakes region in August 2003, affecting millions of people and costing the economy more than $5 billion.

When Amityville, N.Y., lost power for 14 hours, South Oaks Hospital continued normal operations, automatically disconnecting from the failing grid, and powering up its 1.3 megawatt CHP system to handle the full load of the hospital.

"Hospital staff never even knew there was a blackout until the local police station called to see if they needed assistance and numerous calls started to come in from worried relatives checking on patients," Sweetser said.

Speakers and topics are:

  • "The Blackout of 2003 – Montefiore Medical Center's CHP Plant Operation," Harold Smith, Stony Brook Hospital, Stony Brook, N.Y.

  • "Hurricane Katrina – Baptist Memorial Hospital's CHP Plant Operation," Louay Chamra, Mississippi State University, Starke, Miss.

  • "1998 Eastern Ontario/Quebec Ice Storm – Montreal District Energy's CHP Plant Performance," Jay Jayaraman, Enbridge Consumers Gas Co., Ottawa.

  • "Planning for the Next Ice Strom – Design of East Hartford High School CHP Plant," Timothy Wagner, United Technologies Research Center, East Hartford, Conn.

    For more information or to register, visit

    Publication date: 05/22/2006