According to the U.S. Department of Energy, hospitals spend more than $5 billion on energy bills each year. With 24-hour security lights, vaccine refrigerators and rooms full of electronic diagnostic equipment, hospitals are among the nation’s most energy-intensive commercial buildings.
But Gunderson Lutheran Health System in Winona County, Minn., is trying to change that. The hospital system has recently begun commercial operation of its new community wind farm at its Lewiston campus. According to project developer, Woodstock-based Juhl Wind, the dual turbine, 4.96-megawatt (MW) project is the first community wind project in North America to power a large regional health organization. The hospital system believes the turbines will help it meet a goal of becoming energy independent by 2014.
Gunderson’s La Crosse and Onalaska campuses currently meet about 5 percent of their electricity demand with power generated by a biogas plant at the La Crosse City brewery. Gunderson is also partnering with La Crosse County to pipe biogas from the La Cross County Landfill to an on-site combined heat and power system, which will generate electricity and heat the buildings and water on campus. That project is expected to offset 100 percent of the Onalaska Campus energy consumption—about 12 percent of Gundersen’s total energy use.
The energy projects are part of Gunderson’s comprehensive environmental program, called “Envision.” In addition to the projects mentioned above, the energy plan includes three phases of energy conservation measures, three wind farms, a biomass boiler and a dairy biogas project.