In September 2008, Hurricane Ike flooded over one million square feet of University of Texas Medical Branch Galveston campus buildings to depths of six feet, interrupting and damaging electrical power, emergency generators, natural gas, chilled water, and municipal water and sewer. Submerged in seawater, the steam distribution system was a complete loss.
AEI supported UTMB recovery efforts with assessments helping to secure FEMA funding. The long-term opportunity created by Ike, however, has been to simultaneously optimize capital investment and operational spending with engineered resiliency and efficiency, to thrive as well as survive on this coastal island.
Rather than replacing in kind, AEI and UTMB established an approach that would protect utility sources by elevating boilers and chillers or protecting them with floodwalls; supplement outside electrical utilities with 15MW of on-site microgrid combined heat and power (CHP); and, replace much of the existing steam system with a more resilient and efficient district hot water system.
50% more efficient than conventional systems, UTMB's two new CHP plants will save approximately $3 million annually, with a 5-year simple payback. Direct buried and routed overhead, over five miles of highly corrosion-resistant hot water piping is expected to save over 10% of the heating load through lower line losses alone, while reducing susceptibility to storm damage.