By Mike Schuh

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Except when we have to pay the bill, most of us probably don’t think much about where our power comes from. We flip the switch and the lights go on.

But one local hospital spent a lot of time thinking about how they use power and came up with an interesting solution.

When you think of a power plant, a behemoth building with smoke stacks might come to mind, but probably not something tucked into the basement.

Believe it or not, there is one tucked into the basement at the Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie.

The motor is the size of your car.

Inside, it’s too loud to even talk, but you wouldn’t know that if you were anywhere else in the hospital.

It’s big enough that on some days, it can provide all the power to the building.

They now have enough power to allow the operating rooms to function when the power goes out.

“We often couldn’t provide enough cooling to the operating rooms to keep the operating rooms running in a crisis,” said Sue Ward, VP of operations for UM BWMC.

But with the big motor chugging away, they’re able to do that and more.

“We’re generating not only electricity, but we are also generating steam and hot water,” said engineer Earl Burke.

The steam is used to sterilize instruments, while the hot water provides heat.

So now in the winter, instead of having to use two boilers, they only have to use one.

It all runs on natural gas, and because the heat from this motor is captured and reused, this system is a third more efficient than a big commercial power plant.

And that means it’s cheaper.

“It’s projected to save about $750,000 a year,” said Andrew Brumfield, engineering director for UM BWMC.

At that rate, it ought to pay for itself in a decade, while at the same time, making this hospital cleaner, safer, and more reliable.

“There’s a tremendous amount of talent and knowledge that goes on behind the scenes to keep everything running in this organization,” Ward said.

Another hospital in the University of Maryland system, St. Joe’s in Towson, is also building a similar power plant.

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