Wisconsin hospital, brewery partner in CHP project

By Susanne Retka Schill
Web exclusive posted Jan. 23, 2009, at 10:36 a.m. CST

A hospital is teaming up with a brewery in southern Wisconsin to generate electricity from biogas. Work on a $3 million combined heat and power project at the City Brewing Co. LLC facility in La Crosse, Wis., on Jan. 21. The electricity generated will be fed into the power grid to offset the power purchases of Gundersen Lutheran Health Systems.

"We hope to get 3 million kilowatts per year from the system," said Chris Stauffer, media relations spokesman for Gundersen Lutheran. "Our goal is by 2014 to be energy independent." The electrical cost for the regional hospital and its satellite clinics totals close to $4 million annually.

The electrical generation system is being added to the brewery's existing anaerobic digester used for waste water treatment. Currently, the biogas is collected and flared. The new project will clean up the biogas to generate electricity using a 633-kilowatt capacity Jenbacher generator. Waste heat from the generator will be recycled to the brewery's waste treatment process.

The project is part of the hospital's Envision Initiative to reduce its energy use. The health system expects to reduce 20 percent of its energy through various efficiency measures and another 8 percent to 10 percent from the City Brewing project. Future plans include deploying several renewable energy technologies using biomass, solar, hydro or wind. "Our goal is to save our patients' money and preserve the valuable resources of our communities," said Corey Zarecki, efficiency improvement leader at Gundersen Lutheran. Zarecki estimates that the City Brewery biogas generation project will produce the equivalent energy to power 280 homes.