Beth Israel getting greener with flywheels

By Bernie Monegain
03:30 PM
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BIDMC has set a goal to boost its green purchasing by 15 percent by fiscal year 2012.

Already, BIDMC’s data centers – the 7,000 square-foot Renaissance Center, a mile and half from campus, and the 3,000 square-foot Disaster Recovery Center at the main campus – have cut utility use by consolidating servers, replacing older and less energy efficient devices and reconfiguring equipment even as the hospital faces growing electronic demand.

For protecting data against costly power outages, BIDMC relies on flywheel systems.

The data centers are also improving thermal management by reducing the number of cables under floors, using perforated inserts and shutting down an unneeded air-conditioning unit.

Powers said BIDMC is committed to a green future.

“By providing guidance, setting expectations, sharing outcomes and educating the BIDMC community,” Powers said, “we aspire to make sustainability a cornerstone of the way we do business.”

Tyrone Dell, data center plant manager for information systems, said 60 percent of the 300 servers at the Renaissance Center are virtualized. He said he and his staff are working on making the electrical and cooling systems in the second data center housed within BIDMC as redundant as the Renaissance Center.

“It’s more of a hot site that houses our most critical applications in the event our main data center were to become unavailable and the hospital needed to maintain business operations,” Dell said.

To ensure the computer servers are always up and running – even in the 12 seconds between a power outage and the generators kicking in – Dell purchased two sets of flywheels from Yorba Linda, Calif.-based VYCON. Flywheels store the kinetic energy gained from the main power supply and use that to provide the energy for those crucial seconds before the generator takes over. They also save on space and expensive cooling, weight and maintenance costs, Dell said.

BIDMC is using batteries and the flywheels together, but is evaluating whether to eliminate the batteries.

“Beth Israel has always been on the cutting edge,” said Rick Cork, a sales manager at VYCON. The switch to flywheels is a trend that Cork has observed at other healthcare systems, as well as in other industries.

“BIDMC is hardly alone in this dilemma,” he said.

Cork cited an Electrical Power Research Institute study that estimated power disturbances cost U.S. industry as much as $188 billion a year in lost data, material and productivity, and also industry analysts at the Darnell Group, who peg annual spending on backup power systems at more than $5 billion worldwide.

Powers gives Dell kudos for his commitment to protecting data while going green.

“The flywheel technology is probably the project with the most pizzazz, “ he said. “It has worked well for us in reducing our reliance on environmentally unfriendly lead-acid batteries.”