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Health Equity

Unique Partnership Saves Energy and Powers the Local Hospital

Innovative cogeneration energy system puts waste to good use for one Central Coast community.

Some people might look at a landfill and only see piles of stinky garbage.
But the leadership at Marian Regional Medical Center saw potential. 

Through a process called cogeneration, Marian Regional Medical Center repurposes methane gas runoff from the local landfill, generating energy that powers electricity and heat for the hospital. In total, almost 43 percent of the energy used to power the hospital comes from the two on-site cogeneration plants. Annual electrical cost savings are estimated to be nearly $350,000.

“This truly is a win-win initiative,” says Marian Regional Medical Center President and CEO Sue Andersen. “The community and the environment are benefiting through decreased CO2 emissions, Marian

The groundbreaking of the original cogeneration plant at Marian Regional Medical Center

is achieving energy and financial savings, and the City of Santa Maria is making use of and receiving revenue for an otherwise unused, potentially toxic resource.”

The system works by capturing toxic methane gas run-off from the Santa Maria Municipal Landfill and piping it to two eco-friendly energy plants on the hospital campus where it is converted to clean electrical energy. Marian Regional Medical Center is now one of only a handful of healthcare facilities in the nation to be powered by co-generated energy. 

A natural byproduct of decomposition, methane is a potent, heat-trapping gas that when left untapped, can pollute the air, soil, and groundwater. Piping gas from the landfill to power the hospital is now significantly reducing methane emissions and off-setting the use of non-renewable resources such as coal, natural gas, and oil. Since the hospital began using cogenerated power in 2008, more than 11,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions have been avoided.

“We hope we can serve as a role model for other organizations throughout the country,” says Marian Regional Medical Center Chief Operating Officer Mark Allen. “This project demonstrates that environmental stewardship has immediate and long-term ecological benefits.”

This beneficial partnership aligns with the mission and values of Dignity Health, and Marian has long been recognized for environmental excellence and a commitment to sustainability.