Gundersen Health System, a network of hospitals, medical clinics, and nursing homes in Wisconsin, announced that it is producing more energy than it consumes, making it the first net-zero energy health system in the U.S.
Gundersen is using biogas from three local farms, methane from a local landfill, wood chips from local suppliers, solar panels installed on a parking lot, geothermal systems, and wind from two local projects. Energy consumption has been reduced by 40%, saving $2 million a year. The network also earns $2 million by selling surplus electricity and manure byproducts of biogas production.
"We did not set out to be the greenest health system, we set out to make the air better for our patients to breathe, control our rising energy costs, and help our local economy,” according to CEO Jeff Thompson. The accomplishment is particularly noteworthy given the industry and the climate, Thompson says.
He notes that hospitals typically consume 2.5 times more energy than commercial buildings, and Wisconsin’s harsh winters make it one of the most energy-intensive climates in the nation. Gundersen has also made great strides in waste reduction. Hazardous and pharmaceutical waste has been reduced by 40%, food waste by 70%, and styrofoam waste has been eliminated.