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The U.S. Cities With (Or Committed to) 100% Renewable Power

Posted May 11, 2017 12:00 AM by Hannes

Last week renewable energy company Hello Solar released an interactive map highlighting American cities committed to 100% renewable energy. Locations range from small communities that have already converted to 100% renewables, like Kodiak Island, Alaska and Burlington, Vermont, to huge metropolises like San Francisco and San Diego, both of which are looking to go fully renewable within the next 15-20 years.

One of the more interesting aspects of the map is that, given the country’s wide geographic and climatic differences, each city’s renewables story is different. Kodiak Island, which has a population of just over 6,000 people, went fully renewable in 2015 with a mix of 14% wind and 86% hydro, which makes sense given its location. The Terror Lake Hydroelectric Generation Station built on the island in 1985 already generated 22 MW with two shaft turbine units, and the State of Alaska installed a third one in 2013 to crank the capacity up to around 34 MW. It’s clear that Kodiak Island owes much of its success to existing power architecture and its geography.

Burlington’s population of around 42,000 went fully renewable in 2015. A meaty renewables mix has always faced an uphill battle in the Northeast US, where the abundance of cloudy days makes solar generation difficult. Burlington also relies heavily on hydroelectric power from the Winooski River and a remote dam in Maine, in addition to sourcing 20% from wind turbines strategically placed on the hills around neighboring towns. Controversially, though, the city generates the remaining 35% from burning biomass, which generates around 25% more emissions than coal. This large percentage has led some critics to claim that, while the EU and UN technically classify biomass as a renewable resource, Burlington isn’t close to being 100% truly renewable and relies on heavy logging to meet its power needs.

Greensburg—a small city of under 800 people in central Kansas—was described as the greenest city in America following a dramatic transformation. In May 2007 an EF5 tornado decimated Greensburg and completely destroyed 95% of the city. It was then completely rebuilt using “green living” principles, with LEED-certified buildings and power supplied solely by 10 1.25-MW wind turbines.

Huge cities like San Francisco and San Diego, the latter of which has 1.3 million residents and has committed to going fully renewable by 2035, may face a more difficult road. San Diego Gas & Electric has been working to boost the city’s renewables mix for over a decade, and as of Q1 2016 the utility generated 36.4% of its energy from renewables. While California’s climate is ideal for wind and solar development, the ambitious goal will probably still require major innovations in energy storage and distribution to orchestrate the supply of energy between multiple sources.

Renewable power still faces an uphill climb due to cost prohibitions and public opposition, but there are some major success stories. Thanks to aggressive new policies and tariffs, Germany’s Energiewende program aiming at 60% renewable power nationwide has been successful thus far. And Quebec’s 8.2 million residents derive 96% of their energy from hydropower, although that province’s geography alone makes it possible. Even if a city as big as San Diego fails to reach their goal in time, the carbon reduction would surely be worth it.

Image credit: US Bureau of Land Management / CC BY 2.0

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#1

Re: The U.S. Cities With (Or Committed to) 100% Renewable Power

05/11/2017 7:32 AM

OK. So just what is the word <...renewable...> supposed to mean?

i.e. Where does one get a new star from when the sun runs out?

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Re: The U.S. Cities With (Or Committed to) 100% Renewable Power

05/11/2017 1:25 PM

as I understand some of the contracts,... the utility company's will lease the land where the a wind generator will stand, for an amount of time. these contracts are quite lucrative. upwards of $5,000.00/year per generator.

This normally goes to the landowner, usually a famer...

I'm not quite sure what the exit plan is, after the life of the generator, but it seems to be become a problem with the earlier installed generators.

the link is dated 3 years old.

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Re: The U.S. Cities With (Or Committed to) 100% Renewable Power

05/13/2017 10:07 AM

Interesting that the environmentalists pushed for them to be installed then went to push for them to be shut down and in both cases they feel it's someone else's fault and responsibility for it happening plus it's not their job to clean up their environmental mess they created.

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Re: The U.S. Cities With (Or Committed to) 100% Renewable Power

05/11/2017 2:01 PM
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Re: The U.S. Cities With (Or Committed to) 100% Renewable Power

05/12/2017 10:53 AM

Pretty much when the sun runs out, it is every man, woman, and child for themselves, as we scramble to get off Earth before the red scorching and rock melting sets in.

I do believe that falls into the category of: "...and the elements will melt with fervent heat." - 2 Peter 3:10 Holy Bible. You may read the rest of the passage for context if you wish, but I did not want to thrust that upon our readers.

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#4

Re: The U.S. Cities With (Or Committed to) 100% Renewable Power

05/11/2017 11:02 PM

Even if a city as big as San Diego fails to reach their goal in time, the carbon reduction would surely be worth it.

While increasing the carbon production in the countries that make the solar panels, etc.

NIMBY manufacturing counts as local 'green' renewable doesn't it.

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Re: The U.S. Cities With (Or Committed to) 100% Renewable Power

05/12/2017 2:45 AM

And all those people using cars, trucks, off road, SUVs, 4x4s snowmobiles etc that are fully electric recharged by renewable power. Good job folks.

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Re: The U.S. Cities With (Or Committed to) 100% Renewable Power

05/12/2017 6:28 PM

Thanks for the warning.

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Re: The U.S. Cities With (Or Committed to) 100% Renewable Power

05/13/2017 12:48 AM

Even if a city as big as San Diego fails to reach their goal in time, the carbon reduction would surely be worth it.'

How so???

We are living in a carbon base environment. CO2 is a fundamental building block of the environment and is badly needed for plant and food growth. Reducing carbon causes more harm than good. Luckily CO2 level chance naturally. More is better as it is happening now. We are really lucky to live in such times to have it a bit warmer as the Romans had it during their flourishing.

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