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In Tampa, Democratic Congressmembers Kathy Castor and Frank Pallone extoll St. Joseph’s Hospital energy efficiencies

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St. Joseph’s Hospitals, part of the BayCare Health System and a Pediatric and Level II Trauma hospital, is the only hospital campus in the Tampa Bay area with a co-generator plant. That plant consists of a natural gas-fired combustion engine that powers a 1.7 megawatt generator to produce electricity throughout the hospital campus.

And for the past six years, it’s also housed a waste treatment system that reduces waste volumes by 90 percent and converts it into fuel used by the city of Tampa’s McKay Bay Refuse-to-Energy facility.

“It is a model for the nation,” exclaimed Tampa Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor Monday morning after visiting the hospital in West Tampa, where she was joined by New Jersey Democratic Representative Frank Pallone, the ranking member of the U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee, who visited the facility after being invited to by Congresswoman Castor.

The Jersey congressman says he was impressed that St. Joseph’s co-generational plant could allow the hospitals to withstand a major storm and still operate, something fresh on his mind some three years after Hurricane Sandy ripped through his South Jersey congressional district. “It not only saves energy and addresses the climate change issue,” he said of the co-generation plant, “but it’s also important for a natural disaster like a hurricane.”

Tom Davis, director of facilities for the East region for BayCare, said the co-generator runs on natural gas and produces enough energy to juice up to 250 houses.

“It provides energy back to our hospital so that we don’t have to buy so much from TECO,” he said, adding that the hospital uses steam from the exhaust to clean medical equipment throughout the hospital, along with providing heat when required. “So not only are we producing energy, we’re saving money by not having to produce as much steam for other uses throughout the hospital,” he says.

Castor says that with President Obama‘s Clean Power Plan requiring Florida to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by some 32 percent by 2030, innovative solutions such as the ones built by St. Joseph’s are how the state can drop its carbon emissions by that much in the next decade-and-a-half.

“Unfortunately, leadership at the state level – Governor Scott and Attorney General Bondi, are fighting it,” Castor said, alluding to how Bondi recently joined with over two dozen Republican Attorneys General to fight the plan in court.

“That’s going to put us further behind,” Castor said dismissively about the Bondi suit. “We’ve got to focus on these innovative solutions now like the co-generation plan, like renewable energy, like conservation so we can meet those targets, because remember Florida is the most vulnerable state when it comes to the changing climate and unless we can tackle these challenges now, it’s going to be desperate times for the folks who live here and the businesses.”

In addition to its co-generation plant, officials also touted its 6-year-old waste treatment system that converts its waste into fuel.

Last year, St. Joseph’s Hospitals used its emerging technology with its waste facility to convert 2.5 million pounds of Regulated Medical Waste into extrudate to its McKay Bay waste incinerator, where it’s ultimately used as fuel for the production of electricity.

“All of our regulated medical waste is fed to that machine,” explained BayCare’s Davis. “It comes out superheated, emulsified, into like a confetti material, goes to MacKay Bay incinerator and they burn it to make electric. It’s 100 percent recyclable.”

Over the weekend, ads purchase by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s super PAC Independence USA began airing ads criticizing Bondi for intervening in the Clean Power Plan lawsuit.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at [email protected]

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