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Meet the “Green” Hospital That’s Fueled By a Millennia-Old Energy Technology

by | published November 14th, 2017

Edgerton, WI is a small community of fewer than 6,000 people southeast of Madison, the state capital.

A few years ago, the management of its local hospital looked around for ways to reduce rising heating and cooling costs.

The facility was just opening, and the hospital needed ways to contain expenses.

What it came up with may just be a model that could be applied throughout the country.

Edgerton Hospital decided to use an innovative form of energy that has been around for over a millennium. And so far, the results have been impressive.

Last month marked five years since the hospital has opened. Thus far, the amount of money it has saved in natural gas costs has already paid for the about $850,000 cost of the system…

Six years ahead of schedule.

Beginning this month, the building is saving $15,000 in energy with prospects that the total savings may be improving.

And that’s just the start…

This is what the system looks like:


If you haven’t guessed it by now, the innovative source of energy that Edgerton Hospital is utilizing is geothermal.

Now geothermal is, at least in principle, a renewable energy that is easy to understand. It makes use of the heat found underground to provide heat and generate electricity. In some locations, it’s a no-brainer.

Take Iceland, for example, where the absolute majority of national energy comes from geothermal. Of course, having as many volcanoes as they do makes that a rather straight-forward decision.

However, back in the small town in Wisconsin, the approach is different from most of the geothermal approaches with which you may be familiar…

A Focus on Clean Energy

There, the hospital’s geothermal energy system continuously pumps a glycol-water solution through an intricate underground system. As the fluid is pumped outside the hospital, the ground temperature either heats it up or cools it down.

It’s then sent back into the hospital to be used for heating or air conditioning.

Hospital administrators take pride in pointing out that they do not burn any fossil fuels for heating or cooling and, therefore, are creating zero air pollutants.

This is a healthcare facility that is “environmentally sound and sustainable.”

Now, this is an innovative system, but it’s not unique.

There are at least seven other hospitals currently operating in the U.S. that rely on geothermal power for at least some of their required energy. The system at Edgerton, on the other hand, is not simply a direct tapping of steam from the earth.

And in Wisconsin, it was the first and remains the only, such system. When initially suggested to state officials, the authorities said they had no regulatory guideline for installing such a system at a healthcare facility.

As a result, the state spent time at the location while the hospital was under construction.

That has resulted in Wisconsin being able to write the regulations that will allow a similar geothermal system to be used at other hospitals.

Already, elsewhere in the state, non-healthcare facilities are experimenting with possible geothermal applications, some modeled on the Edgerton example.

This may well provide a very localized application of an energy source not often considered when attention shifts to renewables.

Back at the hospital, administrators don’t seem to be finished experimenting with energy savings. The goal is to become more efficient and even self-sufficient in the use of electricity.

As a result, plans are underway to introduce LED lights and possible wind or solar power generated on site.

In the usual discussions we have here in Oil & Energy Investor about energy, the focus is usually on larger national, global, or sectoral matters.

But what is happening in this small town in Wisconsin reminds us that some of the more intriguing energy challenges and solutions are local.

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