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New Waiver Permits Microgrids in Hospitals

By Jim Romeo | Aug 16, 2023
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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued new guidance that now permits emergency backup power for healthcare facilities to be supplied by sources other than a generator or battery system, including microgrid systems.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sets industry standards for relevant facilities. In the past, the 2012 edition of NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code, prevailed. It required “emergency power” for an essential electric system (EES) to be supplied by a generator (often diesel-powered) or battery system. However, the 2021 edition of NFPA 99 permits emergency power for an EES to be supplied by sources other than a generator or battery system, including a healthcare microgrid system.

In a statement issued in late March of 2023, CMS is “issuing a categorical waiver permitting new and existing healthcare facilities subject to CMS requirements to utilize alternate sources of power other than a generator set or battery system only if in accordance with the 2021 edition of the NFPA 99, 2023 edition of the National Electric Code (NFPA 70), and associated references.” The waiver excludes long-term care facilities providing life support.

This is opening a new trend for healthcare facilities to build in or convert to microgrids as primary and backup sources of power. Microgrids are self-sustained electrical grids managed and maintained by the facilities. Such power is often designed with sustainable sources such as solar panels, battery storage, hydrogen cells, wind power and other sources. Microgrids allow facilities to be independent of public utilities and manage their own power that is often more sustainable, economical and fitting for the needs of the facility.

GreenBiz.com reported in June that Kaiser Permanente was one step ahead of the waiver and requirement in a construction project in California. One megawatt of battery storage with a 250-kilowatt solar array was installed on a hospital’s parking garage roof. The installation was a prelude to attaining funding from the California Energy Commission to build-out a more extensive microgrid at another hospital.

Electrical contractors should expect to see more requests for help to take advantage of this new waiver and change in the power profile of many new healthcare facilities, now and into the future.

About The Author

ROMEO is a freelance writer based in Chesapeake, Va. He focuses on business and technology topics. Find him at www.JimRomeo.net.

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