Nestled between the banks of the Mississippi and the rolling farmlands of rural Wisconsin is a little city called La Crosse. Once dependent on fur trade and lumber mills, the La Crosse economic scene now relies mostly upon two local hospitals, a state university and the rather large brewing and bottling facility.
La Crosse isn't famous for much, but it does hold the world’s record for largest six-pack of beer. And although they're actually just painted holding silos for in-process brew, my high school friends and I thought that this was an achievement to be proud of.
Since then, I have found many other reasons to be proud of my home. And I just learned one more: the local brewery will recycle its waste energy to help power one of the hospitals. The clipping my mother sent me from the Gundersen Lutheran Hospital newsletter states:
The renewable energy project is expected to generate three million kilowatt-hours per year by using waste methane gas discharged from the City Brewery waste treatment process and turning it into electricity.
“Rather than flaring the gas or releasing it into the atmosphere, it’ll be piped into an engine to generate electricity,” states Corey Zarecki, efficiency improvement leader at Gundersen Lutheran. The project—located on the City Brewery property—is expected to generate 8 to 10 percent of the energy used on Gundersen Lutheran’s La Crosse and Onalaska campuses. That is equivalent to planting 951 acres of forest, removing 670 cars from the road or enough electricity to power 280 homes. Corey adds, “Our goal of this project is to save our patients money and preserve the valuable resources of our communities.”
On Jan. 19, ground was broken for a combined heat and power project with the La Crosse City Brewery. The renewable energy project is expected to generate three million kilowatt-hours per year by using waste methane gas discharged from the City Brewery waste treatment process and turning it into electricity.
How it works
Waste from the brewing process needs to be pretreated before it is sent to the city waste water treatment facility. The City Brewery has an anaerobic digester. During the waste treatment process, biogas (including methane) is created. The methane is currently flared off. Now, the methane gas will be captured and used as an energy source to run an engine.
The energy will be converted into electricity and then transferred to the grid. In addition, heat generated from the engine is also captured and recycled back to the waste treatment process at the City Brewery.
I am literally beaming, and a little astonished. I don’t mean to make it sound like my town is backward-thinking in any way, or that I thought a project like this couldn’t happen there. But I did figure it was going to take a few more years for a renewable energy project of this size to take place in the community. I don’t know if any readers are from the Midwest, or similarly small conservative towns, but if you are, maybe you can empathize.
This gives me great hope that our physical and mental barriers to change aren’t as monumental as I thought they were. Congrats to the business leaders of La Crosse! They are using their influence wisely to set a stellar example of stewardship and conservation for the rest of the community.
Disclosure: My father works for Gundersen Lutheran.
to help ensure this great local accomplishment, i pledge to drink a few extra lax lagers every time i'm at the bodega :) God I love La Crosse!
ps.. does this mean an end to the eternal smelly flame down by the river??
This is good news but RecycleBill has one concern: Why isn't the beer sludge used as organic fertilizer instead of being sent to the local waste treatment plant?
Oh well, can't win 'em all...
Bio-gas technology is absolutely required technology if we are to survive in a world rapidly running out of cheap and abundant oil, leaving only dirty coal left to burn! Nuclear technologies are still primitive and produce far too much, and far to dangerous wastes for human exploitation! Bio-gas, Algae/diesel, solar, wind, wave , tidal, river current , hydro electric and geothermal all make better sense. Now for the livestock boys that pollute the rivers - Make money, convert all to bio-gas and sell it back to the grid - just good economics and makes for cleaner lakes and rivers Do it or Obama will get you!
Bio-Gas technology is absolutely required technology if we are to survive in a world rapidly running out of cheap and abundant oil, leaving only dirty coal left to burn! Nuclear technologies are still primitive and produce far too much, and far to dangerous wastes for human exploitation! Bio-gas, Algae/diesel, solar, wind, wave , tidal, river current , hydro electric and geothermal all make better sense. Stock- yards are another Bio-gas source ready for development.
I've heard that stopping methane flaring is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to prevent greenhouse gas emissions, but I only heard about it in reference to big oil refineries. It's great to hear that it can happen on this scale too, particularly since it ought to save some money in the long run! How great.
A couple questions about this project - that you may or may not be able to answer - do you know if La Crosse has a municipal utility? Otherwise, I'm not sure I see how the power is being used for the hospital. The clipping you posted above says that the electricity generated from the cogen project (I think it said the brewer is using the heat for their own operations) is put on the grid. The problem is that there's no way to direct those electrons over to the hospital. What may be happening is that the utility is selling the same amount of renewable energy to the hospital as the brewer is placing on the grid. Of course, the hospital pays a premium for clean power, and the brewer only receives wholesale rates for the power they're selling to the grid...
Now if they were close enough and able (legally, technically) to set up a microgrid - as disclosure, that's what my company does - then they could actually have a system whereby the power generated at the brewery actually makes its way over to the hospital, and, even better, when the brewery didn't have any need for the waste heat, they could send it over to the hospital as well, to be used for heating, hot water, and cooling.
Well, they are quite close to each other, so I suppose they could have their own grid. Also I think the hospital is funding much of the project, which also makes me think they have a separate grid. It would probably be better for the town in the long run if it was being fed into the city-wide grid, right?
Sarah...thanks for the post. I am the CEO of Gundersen. Gundersen put up the money for the project and the brewery is letting us use their land...they will get an advantge in their treatment process and we will get ...ultimately...very inexpensive power. Once we treat it...the methane can be used to run the electricity generating engine or be sold to the brewery for gas for their boilers. This will offset Gundersens current gas bill. All of this will decrease carbon and decrease the waste of a resource