Gundersen Health System

By Greenhealth Staff on March 4, 2014

Capturing the wind’s energy to create clean electricity is one way the health system is moving toward its energy independence goal.

Gundersen Health System is harnessing energy from the wind to create electricity. The La Crosse, Wisconsin-based health system built a two-turbine wind farm just north of Lewiston, Minnesota. Today, the wind farm is generating 4.95 megawatts of energy—enough to power about 1,400 homes.

The electricity the turbines generate is fed into the energy grid and used by homes and businesses. Gundersen, in turn, is paid for the energy created. The project represents about six percent of Gundersen’s energy independence goal.

Creating renewable energy through projects like the wind farm ties directly to Gundersen’s mission of improving the health of the communities they serve. Wind energy is clean energy that promotes a healthy environment. Wind and other renewable power sources replace fossil fuel electricity, which studies have linked to serious diseases in humans such as cancer, respiratory distress, liver and kidney disease, reproductive issues, cardiovascular deaths, and stroke. As a health care organization, Gundersen feels it is important to lead by example and reduce the health impact of the energy it uses.

In addition, the money generated from renewable energy projects, like the wind farm, and the money saved through energy conservation at the health system can be passed on to patients in the form of lower health care costs.

The Lewiston wind farm is one of two wind projects with which Gundersen is involved.

The health system partnered with Organic Valley, the nation’s largest cooperative of organic farmers and a leading organic brand, to build the Cashton Greens Wind Farm. The two-turbine wind farm is generating nearly five megawatts of energy—enough electricity to power approximately 1,200 homes each year.

The collaboration between a health care system and organic foods organization shows what innovative thinking can accomplish. The Cashton Greens Wind Farm is adjacent to the Organic Valley distribution center near Cashton, Wisconsin. The power generated from the turbines is sent to the power grid and used by homes and businesses. Gundersen and Organic Valley are paid for the energy created, which helps to offset their energy costs.

Turning cow waste into energy

Speaking of farms, another unique partnership between the health system and local dairy farms turns cow waste into renewable energy. Gundersen Health System and Dane County in Wisconsin are partnering with three farm families on the GL Dairy Biogas Project. The project will offset about 14 percent of Gundersen’s energy needs.

This project will serve Blue Star Dairy, Hensen Brothers Farm, and Ziegler Farm, all located just outside of Middleton, Wisconsin. A total of more than 2,000 cows ensure enough manure supply to make the project economically viable. As digester and biogas technologies develop, costs should improve which can lead to more projects on smaller farms.

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