New UAMS Energy Plant to Save $3.5 Million a Year; Provides Power for State Hospital, Part of Health Department

By todd

LITTLE ROCK – A new power plant featuring a slate of energy-saving measures expected to save the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and others $3.5 million a year was celebrated today with an open house.


The West Central Energy Plant was built to provide utility service to more than 1 million square feet of new construction on campus and to the nearby Arkansas State Hospital and electrical service to the Arkansas Department of Health campus.


The plant’s energy-saving features include items such as insulated windows, high-efficiency lighting and equipment to better regulate energy consumption.


Also included is heating and cooling technology that simultaneously produces 155-degree heating water for water heating and space heating along with 38-degree chilled water for cooling and dehumidification purposes. It is one of the first such units to be installed in the United States. Usually different pieces of equipment are used to heat and cool water.


The facility’s emergency generators can provide electrical power and cooling to all UAMS patient care areas in the event of a power failure. In a complete power failure, power can be restored in minutes, with generators that can operate for 48 hours before refueling.


“The West Central Energy Plant plays a critical role in allowing UAMS to deliver patient care, even more so in the event of power failure,” said UAMS Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson, M.D. “The energy-saving measures in the project underscore our commitment to being good stewards of our finances and good citizens in our community.”


Engineers estimate the annual energy cost at more than $2.2 million for the new UAMS construction and several buildings to be acquired from the Arkansas State Hospital after it moves into its new facility. The estimate, using a standard plant design, was based on the additional size of the buildings and current energy costs. The current annual energy cost associated with existing UAMS buildings and parking decks is more than $10.4 million.


Implementation of the energy-saving measures is expected to save $3.5 million annually compared to estimated utility costs if the energy-saving measures were not implemented.


“We will be able to save money on energy costs while doing it in a way that is environmentally conscious and ensures our ability to deliver on our patient care, education and research missions,” said Leo Gehring, UAMS vice chancellor for campus operations.


The cost of the energy-saving measures was about $3.4 million. Gehring said participation in the project by the Arkansas State Hospital and Department of Health allowed the investment. The added cost of the measures will be repaid through the savings in just over three years, he said.


The capacity of the Entergy substation is approximately 25 megavolt amps (MVA). There is space for a second 25 MVA transformer to be installed in the future. The substation also can provide additional power during peak electric usage, allowing Entergy to shift UAMS from its primary power source, the substation on Woodrow Street.


The West Central plant’s power system includes six 2,250-kilowatt diesel engine generators. The chilled water system includes five 1,500-ton electric centrifugal water chillers and the 1,000-ton heat pump water chiller. The heating water system includes two gas-fired heating water boilers and two electric boilers. The use of a hybrid system with both fuels available provides flexibility and efficiency, Gehring said.


The annual operating and maintenance costs of the plant are projected to be more than 40 percent less than those associated with standard equipment and technology.


The plant has the capacity to serve up to 500,000 square feet of additional floor space – not including a 200,000-square-foot expansion of the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute already planned.


The ongoing UAMS construction served by the plant includes a 540,000-square-foot expansion to UAMS Medical Center and adjacent 100,000-square-foot Psychiatric Research Institute opening in 2009; and a 288,360-square-foot parking deck and 24,000-square-foot Education Building opening in 2008. Also being served is the 92,000-square-foot Residence Hall that opened in 2006. UAMS also will acquire several buildings from the Arkansas State Hospital when the new ASH facility is completed.


Baldwin & Shell Construction Company is the general contractor for the West Central Energy Plant and TME Inc. is the design engineer.


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has 2,538 students and 733 medical residents. Its centers of excellence include the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. It is one of the state’s largest public employers with about 9,600 employees, including nearly 1,000 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $5 billion a year. For more information, visit