Greensburg Rebuilds After Tornado With 100 Percent Renewable Energy

wind turbine blade being hoisted into position
The Greensburg Wind Farm under construction.
John Deere Renewables / NativeEnergy, Inc.

Back in 2007, the City of Greensburg, Kansas was hit by a devastating tornado. Following that tragic event, the U.S. Department of Energy dedicated a team of experts to advise Greensburg in construction of an advanced wind energy system and the use of efficient building technologies and designs. This month, thanks to assistance from the DOE, the city will break ground on the Greensburg Wind Farm. Greensburg will become one of the first cities in the United States to power its homes and business through continuous renewable energy.

“Working with the City of Greensburg we are helping to harness the potential of wind power – one of Kansas’ best renewable energy sources,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman said in 2008. “Increasing America’s wind energy capacity is a vital part of our energy strategy and will help us meet the President’s goal to stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Through the use of new energy efficient building technologies and designs, we are also helping citizens of Greensburg tap the most abundant source of new energy – the energy that is wasted everyday.”

The City of Greensburg announced plans to lead by example as a model for sustainability by pursuing common-sense green solutions including wind energy, while retaining its roots as a small rural community. In the state with the third highest potential for wind energy in the country, the City of Greensburg chose to pursue the development of a three to four megawatt wind energy system. This system is expected to generate enough electricity over the course of a year to meet the pre-tornado base load of Greensburg, and most of its additional peak load. The City’s decision followed months of energy analysis by DOE and other partners as well as consultation between DOE experts and city officials, local utility partners, the Kansas Energy Office, and potential power providers. The community will be connected to the grid during the times that wind does not blow sufficiently, and the system will include biodiesel-powered generators for emergency backup, that also provide renewable power.

“We want to harness the wind and make it work for our citizens. What makes Greensburg’s system unique is that we also want the electricity from the grid to be scheduled so that what we get will always be from a green source. ” City Administrator Steve Hewitt said. “This means that a business located in Greensburg can use electricity that is ‘100% Renewable, 100% of the Time’- an important factor as we work to build a clean and sustainable energy environment. The help from DOE has been absolutely critical through this whole process.”

DOE received a call requesting assistance two weeks after the tornado hit and met with Greensburg officials two weeks later. DOE then opened an office in Greensburg to provide commercial and residential users with advice on renewable and energy efficient options in reconstruction planning. DOE committed a team on the ground of experts from its National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado to conduct detailed studies, develop renewable energy and efficiency business strategies and assemble various financing and ownership options to produce or procure renewable energy technologies.

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