Community destroyed by wind now using wind to power it
In spring 2007, a series of deadly storms devastated the Midwest. It was the most intense tornado season the region had seen in 50 years and the city of Greensburg, Kan., saw the worst of it.
In minutes, hundreds of families were made homeless. After the skies cleared, Greensburg residents emerged from their tornado shelters to a grim new landscape: 95 percent of the buildings in the town were just rubble, reports the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.
Having experienced the devastation of extreme weather and environmental disaster firsthand, Greensburg residents were prepared to take immediate action. When it came time to rebuild, Mayor Bob Dixson prioritized sustainability.
The tornado “gave us the opportunity to look at how we could be sustainable for future generations,” he said.
He – and the rest of Greensburg – integrated sustainability into almost every aspect of daily life.
Greensburg became the first city in America to use LED light bulbs to power its streetlights. City architects designed new municipal buildings to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) designation for energy efficiency. Skylights and south-facing building orientations maximized the power of natural daylight and reduced the need to use electric lighting and heating.
In fact, Greensburg now has more LEED platinum buildings – the council’s highest and most stringent standard – per capita than anywhere in the world, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in energy costs, according to the CLRC.
But the greening of Greensburg didn’t stop with energy conservation. Within a few short years, 100 percent of the electricity used in Greensburg came from renewable sources, thanks to the Greensburg Wind Farm, which produces 12.5 MW of electricity – enough to power every house, business and government building in the town.
Today, wind power is the foundation of Greensburg’s economy, an irony not lost on the town’s citizens.
“The very wind that destroyed this town in the tornado is now the wind we’re utilizing to power the town,” Dixson said. “We didn’t have control over whether or not a tornado came here but we did have control over how we reacted to it.
“(Sustainability) is about leaving the world a better place for future generations, but it’s gotta start in our local communities. If we each change our habits, we can change the world.”
Companies: U.S. Green Building Council