State group use Gundersen as example for energy efficiency - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

State group use Gundersen as example for energy efficiency

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La Crosse, WI (WXOW) -

The push for energy efficiency continues to grow across the state and one group hopes to use a local health system as an example. 

The Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum believes energy efficiency is the future and tries to get this message across to those they talk to.

"Take a second look at renewable energy," Executive Director Scott Coenen said. "Things are changing very, very quickly.  the technology is advancing. There's a lot of efficiencies happening in this stuff."

The members of the group toured Gundersen Health System to get a glimpse of the different ways its facilities create and reduce energy use.

"This particular project actually runs the boiler that's next to me and heats our campus," Gundersen Envision Executive Director Jeff Rich

The biomass boiler launched in 2013. The health system uses wood chips from local mills to burn, creating not only heat but energy used around the campus grounds.

"Those dollars that we pay, instead of going to natural gas that used to go to Texas or Oklahoma, are going to communities in our area," Rich explained.

Wisconsin Public Service Commissioner Mike Huebsch says switching to energy efficiency benefits all in the community.

"The value is as we use less energy, we may need less transmission lines,"Huebsch said. "We may need fewer generation plants."

Also could mean keeping utility rates lower. Rich says Gundersen doesn't plan to stop finding new energy efficiencies for the campus grounds. He expects more changes in the next five years.

"We see the potential to have microgrids come to the forefront. We see transportation, electrifying the grid to be used for automobile transportation and bus fleets and maybe making energy more portable," Rich added.

However, Coenen says to continue rebates and incentives, residents and businesses need to tell elected officials.

"It's not often that your legislator, your state representative will know this stuff is happening if you don't talk to him about it," Coenen finished.

On October 14, 2014, Gundersen Health System became the first health system in the United States to attain energy independence by producing more energy that it consumed. 

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