The foremost concern of a hospital or health care clinic is to provide fast, accurate care to those who are sick or injured. As you might imagine, this is a never ending task, requiring scores of professionals and highly sophisticated medical instruments. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the nation’s 8,000 hospitals are among the most energy-intensive commercial buildings with more than 2.5 times the energy intensity and carbon dioxide emissions of commercial office buildings.
All of this energy consumption translates into higher costs for patients at a time when many people are already struggling to make ends meet. A health care network in Wisconsin has discovered that going green is more essential to quality health care than many might realize.
Gunderson Lutheran Health System recently built a two-turbine wind farm just north of Lewiston, Minnesota. The turbines generate 4.95 megawatts of energy, which is enough to power about 1,400 homes. This energy is fed directly into the community’s electrical grid, and Gunderson is compensated by the municipality. The money paid for the renewable energy plus money saved through energy conservation at the health system is then passed on to patients in the form of lower healthcare costs.
“Wind is an abundant natural resource in our region,” said Jeff Rich, executive director, GL Envision, LLC. “When we decided to control our energy utilization, we wanted to use what was available to us. From biogas to biomass and now wind, we are capitalizing on our surroundings to the fullest.”
The health system is also collaborating on a two-turbine project in Cashton, Wis., with Organic Valley, the nation’s largest cooperative of organic farmers and a leading organic brand. Ultimately, Gunderson hopes to become 100 percent energy independent by 2014, setting an example for other health care systems to follow in its foot steps.