State of Mind
Bountiful hydro, wind and geothermal helps, but so does the right attitude. Consider Germany, which Moss says belies the oft-repeated phrase that renewables are great, but will always be a small part of the mix.
Germany has 30 GW of solar, yet no more sun than Juneau, Alaska. It is installing solar "at this point for half the installation cost of California — which last time I checked was very sunny," Moss said. "Germany doesn't have a lot of wind [or] sun or hydropower, and yet they are on track to be at least 80 percent renewable in the power sector by the middle of the century. And there are plenty of people who think they will get to 100 percent."
Places like Germany succeed in part because of good government policy. But they also "think a little bit more long term," according to Moss. They recognize the local "added value" brought by renewables — not sending money elsewhere for fuel, creating jobs, boosting the tax base, even attracting tourists, she said.
Greensburg, Kansas at first glance seemed an unlikely candidate to go 100 percent renewable. Many of its citizens, those not in farming, earn their living in the oil and gas industry. But the town's mayor, Bob Dixson, says look deeper and the town's green roots show.
Top: A look at the newly rebuilt Greensburg, the first U.S. city with all-LED street lights and the first with a LEED-certified town hall. Bottom left: Greensburg after the devastating tornado struck. Bottom right: The 12.5-MW Greensburg wind farm developed and operated by NativeEnergy. Credit: City of Greensburg.
"Let's go clear back to my ancestors," he said. "Before rural electrification came to western Kansas, the first electricity on farms were what we called wind chargers. You can still drive around western Kansas and see remnants of towers from 60, 70, 80 years ago."
The townspeople believe "if you take care of the land, it takes care of you. So that environmental stewardship has been one of our base values through the decades and centuries," he said.
The core value showed itself quickly after the tornado. Amidst the rubble, community members and officials met in a tent to brainstorm. Within the first 24 hours the idea emerged that a place called Greensburg should be 100 percent green.
It became a community-wide effort — Greensburg compares its reconstruction to an old-fashion barn-raising. Out of it came a model town: highly efficient, using geothermal and solar, the first U.S. city with all LED street lights and the first with a LEED-certified town hall.
But credit for its all-green status goes mostly to a 12.5-MW wind farm developed by NativeEnergy. Because of the wind farm, Greensburg has seen no increase in electric rates in six years, Dixson said.
But most of all, Greensburg found a way to move forward by pursuing 100 percent renewables. "Eleven lives were lost in tornado. All of us lost everything, no matter what your social economic status was. The only thing we had left was each other," Dixson said. "We did not just want to be a surviving community. We wanted to be a thriving community. As our ancestors built a community for us we needed to build a community for future generations."
As goes Greensburg, so goes the rest of the world? That may be a big leap. But what's clear is that 100 percent green is no longer an outlier's pursuit, but a serious goal in many places, one that could become a new rallying cry for renewables in the years to come.
Lead image: Scotland's Fallago Rig Wind Farm via EDF Energy Aerial
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