• Imagine, for a moment, a hospital that is able to provide its own energy through new renewable energy projects like biofuels and solar power and improved energy efficiency efforts. In other words, the hospital will never have to pay another energy bill again. Sounds a little far-fetched, right?

    Well, it’s not far-fetched at all. In fact, officials at Gundersen Lutheran Health System in La Crosse, Wis., are trying to make their health system 100 percent energy independent — meaning they will be completely self-sufficient on all their energy needs — by 2014.

    According to the U.S. Department of Energy, hospitals are some of the most “complex and energy-intensive facilities” in the country. Major heating and lighting needs, 24/7 access and large, energy-sucking machines cause hospitals to use roughly 836 trillion BTUs of energy every year, and they have more than 2.5 times the energy intensity and carbon dioxide emissions of commercial office buildings.

    A hospital’s energy consumption is both a drain on the environment as well as its bottom line. The DOE estimates U.S. hospitals spend more than $5 billion annually on energy, which equates to roughly 3 percent of an average hospital’s operating budget.

    However, Gundersen Lutheran is trying to change that path. Through new green energy projects, Gundersen Lutheran is trying to couple sustainable energy efforts through “solid financial business decisions” — and it all starts with its Envision program.

    The renewable energy efforts are the big-ticket items that involve bigger investments but are resulting in a complete shift of the energy paradigm. For example, in 2009, Gundersen Lutheran teamed up with the La Crosse City Brewery to turn the brewery’s wasted biogas discharge into electricity. The result? Roughly 2 million kilowatt hours per year of electricity are being produced — enough to power 170 average-sized homes — which is roughly 2 percent of the health system’s energy independent goal.

    Similar to the brewery project, Gundersen Lutheran has also partnered with the county landfill to use their flaring gas discharge as a renewable energy source for one of its campuses. “The flaring gas was just wasted,” Mr. Rich says. “It’s a heat source. Now, they pipe the gas to us underneath Interstate 90. We produce the energy from a generator here, and now the campus produces more energy than the entire campus uses.”

    Mr. Rich says they’ve also installed some smaller solar projects and are gaining electricity from two large wind turbine sites. This fall, the team will be installing a massive biomass boiler that will take woody biomass from around the area and turn it into heat and electricity through a steam turbine. Perhaps one of the most innovative projects involves poop — literally. Gundersen Lutheran is teaming up with local farmers to capture cow manure and turn it into renewable energy. “It creates gas in an anaerobic digester just like a landfill, and the process is cleaning water pollution from manure runoff,” Mr. Rich says. “Through anaerobic digesters, we can also turn [the byproduct] into a composted soil amendment or potting soil, which can be sold.”


  • Though it appeared doomed just months ago, the Army and Marine Corps’ plan to replace aging Humvees with a new off-road vehicle may have regained its footing at least for another year.

    The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program office intends to award up to three engineering, manufacturing and development contracts in the spring. Officials recently put out a draft request for proposals and were still refining requirements as of early January.

    It is a welcome sign to potential bidders, considering that lawmakers recently were poised to cut all or some of the program. They ultimately did cut some of it, but still left $154 million for this fiscal year.

    The engineering, manufacturing and development contracts will come after a technology development phase that found both the military and its industry suppliers struggling to strike a balance between protection, weight and cost.

    Teams led by Lockheed Martin Corp., BAE Systems and an AM General-General Dynamics Land Systems consortium called General Tactical Vehicles built prototypes for the technology development portion of the program. But Army officials said they were between a few hundred and 1,000 pounds too heavy.

    Compounding the weight issue was the decision to require the JLTV to provide the same level of protection against improvised explosive devices as the all-terrain variant (M-ATV) of the Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle (MRAP). Concerns were raised that contractors would have to resort to expensive, exotic materials to protect JLTV from roadside bombs, and that would make the cost of each vehicle skyrocket.

    The Army and Marine Corps seemed headed in different directions after the technology development phase. The Army appeared more concerned with protection while the Marines worried that too much armor would prevent the vehicles from being carried by helicopter.

    Marine Corps officials said that if a truck costs more than $300,000, they couldn’t afford it. And that if it weighed too much, they wouldn’t buy it.

    Army and Marine Corps officials said earlier this year that while they had gathered a lot of relevant data from the three technology development contractors, there were still significant challenges in meeting performance and weight requirements. The overall cost of the program, too, had to be addressed.

    But after lawmakers recommended cutting the program altogether, the Army and Marine Corps put their heads together in an effort to save JLTV.

    “What has been most impressive about the last few months was that the Marine Corps and Army stood shoulder to shoulder in going forward to [the defense secretary] and Congress to outline and revise this new program,” said Glenn Lamartin, vice president of JLTV capture at BAE Systems. “They squared the box by defining very aggressive goals for average unit manufacturing costs.”

    The goal now is to spend $230,000 on each vehicle, $270,000 at the most. That is down from an estimate earlier this year of about $320,000 and a sizeable reduction from the $418,000 predicted at the beginning of the technology development phase.

    Officials also have decided to shorten the anticipated length of the next phase by a year to reduce program costs. They also took a hard look at requirements, relaxing some of them and allowing the vehicles to gain back some of their weight. This has helped companies focus their designs, executives said.

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  • led light 19.12.2011 No Comments

    Bob Malcolm would love to have moved to Christmas Wreath Lane when he and Paula Odegaard were looking for a house in 2007.

    The two Billings natives thought that Christmas wasn’t Christmas without a trip along Avenue D to see homes decorated with large lighted wreaths.

    Because no Avenue D homes were for sale then, the couple settled on a Concord Drive house in 2007 and created their own lighting display.

    Except for last year when early snows curtailed outdoor decorating, the couple has added to the display each year until this Christmas, they have a candy-cane themed show with 10,000 lights.

    Crossed candy canes line their sidewalk under arches of blue lights. More candy canes hang from the front eaves. Lights line the roof lines where a waving Santa and reindeer are ready to take flight.

    Malcolm made two 14-foot mega trees out of strings of blue lights with red lighted bows in the center.

    A real tree in the boulevard is covered with lights, too. White lights deck smaller trees and deer on the front lawn.

    He picked five, fast-paced contemporary holiday songs including “Everyone Loves Christmas” and “The House on Christmas Street” to feature because traditional Christmas songs are too slow.

    “People like to hear upbeat songs,” he said.

    Choreographing lights to music isn’t easy. For each 2 to 3-minute song, Malcolm spends 8 to 14 hours sitting at a computer, programming the lights to turn on and off, flash or fade to the beat of the music.

    Malcolm expanded the display this year, going from 16 to 48 computerized channels.

    Because getting the lights set up can become an all-consuming task in the fall, Odegaard made a rule that Malcolm could not start until after Halloween.

    Then last year, Malcolm only got the rooftop Santa and reindeer up before heavy snow hit, putting a halt to more decorating.

    “I had to change the rule to ‘Nothing before Labor Day,’” Odegaard said with a laugh.

    This year, Malcolm started in mid-October getting boxes down from the garage attic and testing lights. The roof lights went up while the weather was warm and days longer. Some displays also require driving stakes into the ground, which is impossible if the ground is frozen.

    “You fight Mother Nature and darkness,” Malcolm said about the difficulties of setting up outdoor displays in Montana.

    Odegaard works in the Billings Clinic financial department. Malcolm is an installer with Architectural Doors and Hardware.

    As a hobby, Malcolm does the sound and lights for the 7th Avenue Band, developing an expertise that helps with his holiday lights.

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  • Bryan Yeager has had a scary dream or two, but that’s OK. They have provided plenty of fodder for the jack-o’-lanterns he crafts.

    Yeager, a Summerlin resident and a financial adviser by day, takes carving jack-o’-lanterns to a new level. These are not cut-out jack-o’-lanterns but rather intricate, 3-D-looking ones made of foam with gradated shading.

    He is set to have a booth at the Summerlin Art Festival, slated from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Summerlin Centre Community Park, 1800 S. Town Center Drive. Admission is free.

    He crafts jack-o’-lanterns with varying degrees of thickness to let out different amounts of Rechargeable diving flashlight.

    “I saw one on the Internet, and I went, ‘Wow, what a different way to do it,’ ” he said.

    He began experimenting and soon had his first piece. Yeager now adds paint and sands the piece until it resembles something more like a painting than a mere Halloween ornament.

    “Before, I was just hacking and slashing,” he said. “These are pieces of art.”

    It all began when Yeager was 10. That’s when he decided to take the scary dreams he’d had all his life and turn them into a profit by carving jack-o’-lanterns. He sat outside a Safeway store that once was near where Arizona Charlie’s Decatur is now and offered to carve a pumpkin of store patrons. He’d have the jack-o’-lantern finished by the time they were done shopping. He got $5 or $10 for each one, “or $15 if they gave me a nice tip,” he said.

    Flash-forward to when he was raising his own family, and he became known as the coolest dad on the block with his carved pumpkins.

    Initially, he carved jack-o’-lanterns for pleasure, giving them as gifts. In 2010, he decided to sell them and had a booth at the Summerlin Art Festival, where he displayed 20 and sold 15 but told buyers they had to wait to pick up their purchase so he’d have examples on hand. His display led to 30 commissioned pumpkins for companies that wanted their logo on a scary pumpkin.

    This year, he’ll offer the more sophisticated 3-D ones for the first time, starting at $75.

    It will be a tad tough to part with them, he admitted.

    “I love them all but for different reasons,” he said.

    But real pumpkins wilt and die.

    That’s a plus, said Wayne Higdon, who has one of Yeager’s pumpkins sitting atop the microwave in his office. It sports the name of his business, Dad’s Garage, as well as a scary rat on two legs and an exaggerated hot rod.

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