How GE jet engine technology powers a huge Houston health complex

Fri, 2014-04-18 06:00 -- Liz Enbysk

Technology from GE's CF6 jet engine is powering Texas Medical CenterIn the Dept. of Believe It or Not, the world's largest healthcare complex – the sprawling Texas Medical Center (TMC) in Houston -- is keeping its power on with technology derived from the world's largest jet engines, which are produced by Council Global Partner GE.

As GE notes, Texas isn't the easiest place to run a hospital that covers an area 1.5 times that of New York City's Central Park. Power plant owners and community groups have raised alarms about regular rolling blackouts unless Texas rethinks its power markets and adds capacity to the electric grid.

So no surprise that TMC, which sees some 7,000 patients annually and completes 350,000 surgeries, wanted a backup plan. The solution came from a company that not only knows energy, but also makes big, powerful jet engines. Pulling from its aviation know-how, GE built a family of gas turbines called aeroderivatives. As GE explains it, the jet engine inside the turbine spins a shaft attached to the generator to produce electricity.

The company that operates the TMC power plant is using the GE technology to generate 48 megawatts of power. The system also generates steam for TMC's heating and air conditioning by trapping exhaust heat.

According to GE, the setup allows the power plant operator to cut enough carbon dioxide emissions to remove the equivalent of 53,000 cars off the road, compared to purchasing the heat and power directly off the grid.

And the Houston complex isn't the only place where the aeroderivatives have been test. Princeton University's co-generation plant was using the technology when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012. The town around it was dark, but the campus had lights and heat.