In a cooperative effort expected to reduce energy consumption, air pollution and costs, Kaiser Permanente Hospital-Orange County has begun operating a high-tech, natural gas fuel cell that will provide electricity and heat to its medical center on Lakeview Avenue.
The fuel cell, provided to the hospital by Southern California Gas Co. for a 20-year pilot program, is expected to generate 10% of the medical center's electricity and more than 90% of the thermal energy it needs for heating and supplying hot water, said hospital administrator Jerry McCall.
Kaiser Permanente's use of the new technology was announced Monday in a ceremony at the hospital.
"It's part of our environmental awareness program," McCall said. "We're trying to do things as an organization to improve the environment."
McCall said the fuel cell is expected to save the hospital $1.4 million over 10 years.
Kaiser Permanente is the first hospital to use a fuel cell in the Western United States, officials said. Two other fuel cells in Orange County are operating at the Hyatt Regency Irvine and Kraft Foods in Buena Park.
The fuel cell operates like a giant battery, producing electricity and thermal energy virtually pollution free with no combustion. It extracts hydrogen from the natural gas and then combines that hydrogen with oxygen in an electrochemical reaction that produces electricity and heat.
The fuel cell, which produces 200 kilowatts, is more than twice as energy-efficient as conventional electric generation, officials said. And, McCall added, it is much cleaner. While conventional electric generation of 200 kilowatts would produce about 100 parts per million of air-polluting emissions, the fuel cell has emissions of just 1 part per million, he said.
Costing $600,000, the unit is made by International Fuel Cell, a subsidiary of United Technologies in South Windsor, Conn.