U.S. Rep. Ron Kind today hosted Nancy Sutley, President Obama's principal environmental advisor and Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality for tours of two significant clean energy initiatives in western Wisconsin. Kind and Sutley visited both Gundersen Lutheran Heath System's campus in Onalaska, Wis. as well as a small scale digester located on the Peters Dairy Farm in Chaseberg, Wis.
"Right here in our own backyard, we have local people and small businesses using waste to create clean energy," said Rep. Kind. "They are saving money, reducing pollution, and increasing efficiencies. These leaders should be a model for the rest of the nation. I'm pleased to be able to share these innovative and renewable energy solutions with Ms. Sutley."
"La Crosse County is home to innovative efforts that exemplify the Obama Administration's approach to growing our economy and saving families and businesses money through smart clean energy initiatives," Sutley said. "Taking an all-of-the-above approach to energy that includes developing renewable energy sources and cutting energy waste is good for communities in Wisconsin and a model for successful efforts across the country."
Kind and Sutley's first stop today was at Gundersen Lutheran, which is working to become the first health care system in the nation to obtain energy independence, a goal they expect to reach by 2014. Gundersen's Onalaska campus is a model for achieving this ambitious goal across all of their hospitals and clinics. Through a partnership with La Crosse County, Gundersen uses biogas from a local landfill -- piped to an engine on their Onalaska Campus -- for heat and electricity. The engine produces as much energy as the Onalaska Campus consumes, making the multiple building healthcare campus 100 percent energy independent.
"There are some great, local solutions when members of communities partner to focus on the long-term health and well-being of the community," said Jeffrey Thompson, MD, CEO, Gundersen Lutheran. "Our landfill gas-to-energy partnership with La Crosse County is just one example. We were honored to show Ms. Sutley and Rep. Kind what can be accomplished when the government and private organizations work together to achieve a goal."
Kind and Sutley then traveled to Vernon County where they visited a 45 kW anaerobic digester located at a small dairy farm owned by Wayne Peters and his sons, Rory and Roger, in Chaseberg. The digester is currently selling renewable energy to Dairyland Power Cooperative. The 200-cow farm facility is unique in that it represents the first small-scale use of a manure digester system in the region. Typically, "cow power" manure digester plants are designed for large-herd dairy farms of at least 1,000 cows. The Universal Sanitary Equipment Manufacturing Company (USEMCO), based out of Tomah, Wis., developed this digester operation specifically to encompass small-herd operations such as the Peters Farm. The technology behind the digester creates new opportunities for smaller farms to both minimize waste and increase renewable energy production.
"Dairyland Power is a national leader in terms of the quantity of on-farm digesters producing renewable energy for our cooperative system. We are pleased to be part of this partnership which produces more renewable power locally while offering great promise for small family-owned farms," said William Berg, President and CEO, Dairyland Power Cooperative.
The tours with Nancy Sutley today were meant to highlight not only local innovative initiatives focused on renewable energy but President Obama's all-of-the-above energy approach that doubles down on clean energy to save money, reduce pollution, and create 21st century American jobs and industries.