Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=157820
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Mercy Hospital is importing the wind to meet 10 percent of the medical center's electricity needs beginning in March.


Windy City hospital set to import wind

by Leslie Streicher
Feb 22, 2010


Mercy Hospital and Medical Center is importing the wind - 10 percent of its electricity will come from wind power starting in March.

A wind farm in Pennsylvania will help power lights and equipment in operating-rooms and other areas of the medical center, 2525 S. Michigan Ave.Solar panels and a rooftop garden will also appear on the medical complex soon.

This is all part of an environmental initiative that has Mercy joining forces with FirstEnergy Solutions Corp, an Ohio-based power marketer, to receive 10 percent of its electricity in the form of clean energy. Hospital officials say they hope the move will have a citywide impact on health care systems.

“We hope our environmental initiatives will encourage other hospitals to do the same,” said Richard Cerceo, the hospital’s chief operating officer.

The partnership formed after an online auction run by Massachusetts-based power broker World Energy Solutions. Nine contractors bid to supply clean, affordable energy to the hospital.FirstEnergy delivered the winning bid and Mercy estimates electricity savings will total $570,000 over three years, with a bonus of greenhouse gas reductions totaling 5,500 metric tons.

That’s like taking 1,000 cars off the road, according to hospital officials.

Illinois is one of 13 states to support a competitive energy market where you can get bids for energy rates rather than getting locked in to one provider. Practice Greenhealth, a Virginia-based not-for-profit promoting green health care initiatives, approached Mercy about the online auction.

“It is our mission to help any hospital that is interested in reducing its carbon footprint,” said Nicholas DeDominicis, executive vice president of Practice Greenhealth. “Mercy is one of the early adopters.”

And with the new energy contract, the hospital will have more money to spend on its facilities and programs, said Mary Kate Brosnan, a marketing official at the hospital.

“We operate on a stringent budget, so any money saved will go toward patient care and enhancing our services,” she said.

Brosnan said this is another step in Mercy's move to go green.

“We just purchased new hybrid cars for our security department,” she said. “And we were able to reduce our trash pickup from twice to once a week through recycling.”

The hospital also converted to an electronic health record system last year, which cuts back on paper usage.

But Brosnan said the hospital’s actions are meant to go beyond the city limits.

“As part of being a responsible community partner, we need to adopt these environmental initiatives to not only improve our community and also improve global wellness,” she said.Cerceo said he will keep planning for hospital improvements that benefit the environment.

“We are hoping solar panels will be built on the roof in about two years, and we are looking into thermal covers for our heating plant that will reduce heat emissions,” he said.

Rooftop gardens are also in the plans.

“We have two doctors who are looking into making a rooftop garden that can grow food to sell to patients and markets,” Brosnan said. “We are always looking for ways to bring better food and health care to this area.”

It's a spearhead for the green health care movement across the nation, DeDominicis said.“It’s very good what Mercy has done,” he said. “It really should be held up as an example.”