Cape Breton Regional Hospital’s new energy centre will be cleaner, greener and more efficient

Courtney Kennedy, chief power engineer with FMS (left) and Ian McDiarmid, director of planning and infrastructure with the Redevelopment Project. (contributed)
The expansion at Cape Breton Regional Hospital (CBRH) will not only change health care locally, but will also be cleaner, greener and more efficient. 
As part of the expansion, a new energy centre will be built on the site. The energy centre will heat and cool the new buildings as well as the existing hospital. 
Ian McDiarmid, director of planning and infrastructure with the CBRM Health Care Redevelopment Project, said the project will have many positive impacts. 
“When we started planning, we explored all options to reduce our energy consumption, but because of the size of our projects and our geographic location, it really came down to a few options,” he said. “Rather than burning oil only, we will offset that by using 60 per cent biomass (woodchips). The new model will provide a cost savings for Nova Scotia Health, emit less greenhouse gas, and instead of transporting oil from outside the province, woodchips will be sourced locally.”
When COVID-19 restrictions allowed, McDiarmid, redevelopment team members and representatives from Nova Scotia Health’s facilities management services (FMS) visited plants currently using biomass in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. 
Courtney Kennedy, chief power engineer with FMS at CBRH participated in the site visits. 
“After seeing the operation of a few woodchip plants, I was surprised at how clean they were. There were no noticeable emissions, the boilers were very technically advanced and the ash produced from combustion can be used in soil for pH regulation on farms or in gardens,” said Kennedy. “Our current plant has been well maintained but it is nearing end of life. A new energy centre will improve our efficiency and use a sustainable distribution chain that will protect and maintain our forests and put money back into our local economy.”
As part of their role, the redevelopment team’s patient and family advisors (PFAs) asked about the cost and environmental benefits of the new energy centre. 
McDiarmid reached out to colleagues with the Department of Lands and Forestry for more information. 
“The department did a deep dive into our project and found the environmental benefits of the energy centre equates to removing 550 cars from the road for 30 years,” said McDiarmid.
With several contracts awarded over the last few weeks, foundation work for the new energy centre is expected to begin this summer. 
Like other redevelopment contracts, many companies being awarded the work are local. 
In addition to the energy centre, projects at CBRH also include a new Cape Breton Cancer Centre and new clinical services building that will house an emergency department, critical care department, inpatient beds, surgical suites and maternal/newborn services unit. 
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CBRH energy centre quick facts: 

  • Approximately 30,000 square feet in size, the state-of-the-art energy centre will power and heat the new expansions, and existing CBRH. 
  • The energy centre will use a mix of oil and wood chips as fuel sources (60 per cent wood heat).
  • It will be registered with Efficiency Nova Scotia. The goal is to meet targets required for Energy Star rating. 
  • The environmental impacts of the new model equates to removing 550 cars from the road over 30 years.