July 22, 2022, Middleton, WI – The Benedictine sisters at Holy Wisdom Monastery received a $575,000 grant from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin Office of Energy Innovation to help them achieve net zero energy consumption for their campus in Middleton.
“This generous grant helps us launch a project to upgrade an aging HVAC system and install new efficient energy systems as we continue to Care for the Earth as part of the sisters’ mission which is rooted in the Benedictine values of stability and respect for all of creation,” explained Charles McLimans, CEO at Holy Wisdom Monastery.
Details of the project are still being worked out, but the plan is to retrofit Holy Wisdom’s Retreat and Guest House with new geothermal HVAC system so that it, like the sister’s Monastery Building, uses geothermal energy for heating and cooling. The heating and cooling of the retreat building will be coupled with new solar photovoltaic arrays and battery energy storage systems to reach net zero energy, meaning the campus is able to generate all their energy needs using onsite renewable sources. There are no net zero energy retreat centers in Wisconsin and only a handful across the United States.
The monastery will partner with CG Schmidt, a construction management and general contracting firm, on the project and North American Mechanical (NAMI), a mechanical contractor who will do all the mechanical, engineering and plumbing work.
“The addition of geothermal energy will almost eliminate natural gas use and the associated methane and carbon emissions at Holy Wisdom Monastery,” said Mark Hanson, project consultant from Hoffman Planning, Designing and Construction.
The sisters have a long history of taking care of the sacred land at Holy Wisdom Monastery. In the 1990s they created a master plan for their grounds, which are adjacent to Lake Mendota and the Yahara Watershed. They dredged 85,000 cubic yards of silt from a small glacial lake that acts as a filter for runoff heading for Lake Mendota. They also restored more than 120 acres to native prairie and oak savanna. In 2009 they built a green monastery that received a Platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification and is the highest rated building in the world for LEED Version 2.2 for new construction. The new building included a solar PV (photovoltaic) system and a geothermal HVAC system to heat and cool the building. In 2012 they purchased 53 acres of adjacent land slated for development and restored additional prairie. In 2014, 125 kW-dc of solar PV was added on the Monastery Building and Retreat & Guest House. In 2017 the sisters received the international Assisi Award from the Society for Conservation Ecology for more than 60 years of conservation practices at Holy Wisdom Monastery.
The cost of this project will be funded by this and other grants, possible third-party solar investors and a fundraising campaign. The hope is that the project can be completed by June 2023.
Holy Wisdom Monastery is home to Benedictine Women of Madison, an ecumenical monastic community, and a Community of Communities. It is also a retreat and meeting center and Benedictine monastery in Middleton, WI. The monastery, established in 1953, is located on 130 peaceful acres of restored prairie, savanna and woodlands overlooking Lake Mendota and is open to all. Holy Wisdom Monastery offers environmental education and spirituality programs throughout the year, walking trails, volunteer opportunities, and Christian church services every Sunday. More information is available at HolyWisdomMonastery.org.
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Director of Communications
Holy Wisdom Monastery
4200 County Road M, Middleton, WI 53562
608-836-1631, x119; 608-209-2167