World’s largest hospital complex depends on gas turbine

To keep the Texas Medical Center up and running, through power shortages or blackouts, the world’s largest collection of medical research institutions and hospitals depends on natural gas.

GE’s natural gas-fueled turbine unit that supports the 280-building medical center uses the same technology that will power the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Russia and that provided power in Japan after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The turbine units, assembled in Houston, are crafted from engines that were initially designed to power aircrafts but have been adapted for use on the ground. More than 2,200 of the aeroderivative turbines are active in 76 countries around the world, including India, Iraq and Canada.

The systems have become increasingly popular as a reliable option for both regular and backup power. A GE unit has supported the Texas Medical Center since 2010.

“This takes 10 minutes to turn on,” said Juan Luis Trevino, the shop operations manager for the GE Energy assembly site along the Houston Ship Channel, gesturing at a 23-megawatt turbine unit under construction.

The systems can also be shipped and set up within weeks, providing a relatively fast and lasting response to disasters or other power constraints, Trevino said.

Following four years of double-digit growth in orders, the site expects to increase its shipping volume by 25 percent this year, Trevino said.

The units in GE’s aeroderivative line now run in sites that are often far afield, like one that runs off of ethanol fuel to power communities in the Amazon, said Rick Goins, a spokesman for GE.