Two Years Later, Greensburg is Officially
Green - with NREL's Help
May 5, 2008 - energycentral.com
The same natural force that annihilated Greensburg,
Kan., two years ago soon will be illuminating the
town that has been rebuilt into America's most energy-conscious
With technical assistance from NREL, the city of
Greensburg, John Deere Renewable Energy and other
partners will open a wind farm generating 12.5 MW
of electricity, enough to power 4,000 homes. Replacing
fossil-fired electricity with a renewable source is
a significant step in the town's well-documented recovery
— not only for the environmental benefits, but as
an economic development strategy, too.
Traumatized residents could be forgiven for doubting
any promise delivered on the wind. But now, says NREL
project Leader Lynn Billman, townspeople proudly wear
T-shirts that quip "Greensburg, KS — It's a Wind-Wind
When Catastrophe Brings Opportunity
On May 4, 2007, an evening tornado cranking at 205
mph leveled the town, killing 11 people and uprooting
its 1,400 residents. The giant twister destroyed 90
percent of the buildings in its unusually wide path,
including Main Street, schools, government offices,
the fire station, the bank and the hospital.
With a few days, advisers from NREL, the U.S. Department
of Energy and other agencies were huddling with local
officials and residents under the big white emergency
services tent to help answer the Big Question — what
will become of Greensburg?
Since then, Billman has coordinated NREL experts
and subcontractors who have served as technical advisors
on every aspect of renewable energy and sustainable
Already, Greensburg's decision to set a new green
standard is paying off. Tests on 100 new homes built
since the disaster show energy efficiency has improved
by an average of 40 percent over homes built to conventional
building codes. Some residents saw their winter heating
bills reduced by as much as two-thirds.
On May 2, Greensburg recognized the NREL with the
city's first annual Outstanding Support Award for
playing an "instrumental" role in the town's recovery.
NREL advisers will work in Greensburg for another
year to complete on-the-ground projects and develop
a sustainability blueprint that other cities and towns
"NREL has made our lives easier and better," said
City Administrator Steve Hewitt. "Our experience will
benefit many other communities that NREL will be working
Community-Sized Wind Power
The Greensburg wind farm will include 10 turbines,
each rated at 1.25 MW. John Deere Renewable Energy
will build and maintain the wind farm, and it will
sell power to the Kansas Power Pool, a cooperative
of several Kansas cities. Greensburg expects to consume
about a quarter of the electricity the wind farm generates.
When the wind isn't blowing and the turbines cannot
generate electricity, the Kansas Power Pool will provide
the town with clean power from other sources, including
hydropower, to meet the community's goal of being
powered entirely by renewable sources.
Groundbreaking for the Greensburg wind farm is planned
for this summer at a site three miles outside of town.
Commercial operation is expected to begin in 2010.
Laboratory advisers recommended wind power to Greensburg
early in the rebuilding effort; Kansas has the third
highest potential among the U.S. states to generate
electricity from wind, according to a NREL analysis.
And, they realized that Greensburg could be a showcase
for distributed community-scale wind power.
NREL developed extensive wind farm technical studies
and business models as part of its broader green recovery
plan but, the city decided to contract the wind farm's
development with John Deere Renewable Energy.
Billman said the Laboratory wants Greensburg to
have a wind system generating clean electricity economically
and at a location visible from town, and the John
Deere Renewable Energy plan achieves those goals.
"We fully support the city's decision," Billman said.
"It will help Greensburg achieve its vision without
raising the cost of electricity for its residents.
Part of a Broader Clean Energy Plan
Other areas that NREL advisers have been working
on to keep Greensburg operating sustainably on its
own for decades include: - Municipal building design
and construction to LEED - platinum standards, making
it the first city in the nation to do so.
- LED streetlights
- Energy-efficient framing, insulation, ductwork
and other improvements to new residential and commercial
- Helping establish a local wind turbine distributorship
at the John Deere farm equipment dealership
- Assessing biomass-fueled heating opportunities.