Gundersen plans to build two wind farms to sell electric power.

Gundersen Lutheran Health System, La Crosse, Wis., continues to make progress on a challenging and ambitious path to reach energy independence by 2014 for all of the medical facilities and related office buildings it operates in three bordering North Central states.

In the latest development, GL Wind LLC, a new firm formed by Gundersen, recently reached an agreement with Juhl Wind Co., a wind power company in Woodstock, Minn., and an unnamed equity partner to fund the development of a 4.95-megawatt (MW) wind farm in Lewiston, Minn.

Construction of the site, which will include either two or three wind turbines, is expected to be completed by September 2011, about the same time a separate 3.6-MW wind farm also co-owned by Gundersen is expected to launch in Cashton, Wis., located 20 miles east of LaCrosse, says Jeff Rich, executive director of major projects and efficiency improvement.

The plan is to sell power generated by the wind farms to the electrical grid with the intent of using that revenue to help offset all of Gundersen's energy use. "That doesn't mean we're going to have solar panels and wind turbines on every building," Rich says. "It means that we're going to offset the amount that we use in all of those buildings by selling power to the grid."

Development of the wind farms represents the latest in a series of actions Gundersen has taken with the intent to become energy independent. After conducting an energy audit in 2008, Gundersen improved its energy efficiency by 30 percent over the past two years, Rich says.

The health system teamed up with nearby City Brewery in 2009 in one of its first major steps to offset its power consumption. Gundersen installed an engine at the brewery that turned methane gas discharged from its waste treatment process into electricity to sell to the electrical grid, Rich says.

Gundersen has a similar plan for its Onalaska, Wis., campus. Methane produced at the LaCrosse County landfill will be piped to Gundersen's Onalaska campus.