Dane County, Ho-Chunk Gaming partner on sustainability

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- A new partnership between Dane County and Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison is trying to reduce the use of fossil fuels in vehicles by replacing it with renewable natural gas.

Officials said renewable natural gas is better for the environment and for people's wallets.

Dan Brown, executive manager of Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison said he and his staff are constantly looking for new ways to be environmentally friendly.

"We're looking to be participants in basically saving the earth," he said.

Their latest project is a truck on their maintenance fleet that runs entirely on renewable natural gas.

"It is an entirely different product, it's the cleanest burning fuel available right now, Brown said.

The fuel for this truck comes from a plant run by Dane County that processes gas created by garbage in the county landfill.

"This facility here takes that gas, all landfill gas, and we clean out all those other things," said John Welch, Director of Dane County's Department of Waste and Renewables.

After the gas from the landfill is cleaned and compressed, it is fed into a pipeline where it can be distributed to filling stations.

Ho-Chunk Gaming is one of the first businesses to use this fuel. Dane County also sells the fuel to Kwik Trip and uses it to power some of their own vehicles.

"About one-third of our snowplows that you see out on the road are powered by renewable natural gas," Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said.

Officials also said using renewable natural gas is not just cleaner and better for the environment, it is cheaper for businesses and taxpayers.

"We will be generating several million dollars in profit annually from this system," Parisi said.

From that profit, the county expects $3 million in revenue to taxpayers in 2020.

"Every dollar that's coming in takes the place of a tax dollar," Parisi said.

The county itself is also saving money by using renewable natural gas to power some of its fleets.

Parisi said filling up vehicles with renewable natural gas instead of diesel costs about $1.50 per gallon. Based on current diesel prices in Madison, the county could be saving up to 30 cents a gallon.

Ho-Chunk Gaming also expects savings from the truck. They have not analyzed the numbers for the truck yet, but they have seen their other sustainability projects save thousands of dollars.

In 2012, Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison changed their interior and exterior lights to LED lights. In the first year after that project, the casino saved $30,000.

Both Ho-Chunk Gaming and Dane County said this partnership is critical to address climate change, and they want to be an example for other businesses.

"If they can use renewable natural gas, they're using what is literally the cleanest transportation fuel available," Parisi said.

Dane County is looking to expand partnerships with more private businesses that can use renewable natural gas, and they plan to continue partnering with the Ho-Chunk Nation on sustainability.

Next, Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison plans to take their vehicle sustainability further and eventually convert their fleet to electric vehicles.