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Greensburg GreenTown is a charitable nonprofit organization working in Greensburg, Kansas to rebuild the town following the devastating tornado in May of 2007. The town has made a remarkable comeback, reinventing itself as a model for sustainable building and green living now recognized around the world. GreenTown works to make green building and living easily understood, appealing and accessible to all.

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Entries in Wind (5)


Living Green Around the Globe: Samso Island

Image courtesy of Inhabitat.com

We thought we would start off the new year on a positive note with a blog series entitled Living Green Around the Globe. The articles will highlight sustainable communities around the world and what has made them successful. The first community we have chosen to highlight is the completely energy self-sufficient Samso Island.

Samso Island is located nine miles off mainland Denmark and has a population of approximately 4,000 people. In 1997, Samso won a national contest sponsored by the Danish Energy Agency to select the off-shore island with the best plan to become 100 percent energy-sustainable within a 10-year time frame. The island has gone from being 100 percent reliant on petroleum and coal in 1997 to being energy self-sufficient, utilizing only renewable sources, in 2003. The island is powered by 11 on-shore and 10 off-shore wind turbines. The turbines are either privately or cooperatively owned by Samso residents, or by the municipal government. The turbines make enough energy to meet the community's electricity demands, supply the island's entire public transportation system, and have a surplus to sell to other regions of Denmark.

It's not that the Samso residents have given up their cars and other usual modes of transport. The three ferries that connect the island with the mainland, for example, consume large sums of petroleum every day. But Samso sells more clean energy to the continent than it purchases in fossil fuels. Some farmers have adapted their tractors and other vehicles to consume ethanol or other fuels distilled from locally grown plants.

Samso also has four generators that run on the combustion of hay, which is abundant on the island. The generators are especially efficient because they produce both heat and electricity. Many homes have installed solar panels, geothermal heating, and boilers fuelled with biomass to eliminate carbon emissions. Some dairy farmers have gone as far as to connect a heat transfer mechanism to their collection tanks to prevent the warmth from the milk from dissipating into the air, and harnessing it instead to help heat their homes.

The residents of Samso who were initially hesitant to embrace the renewable energy and eco-friendly trend, have embraced the lifestyle and the positive changes that it has brought their community. They have found that it has boosted their local economy; in fact one in ten residents own a share in a wind turbine. Samso has become an eco-tourism hotspot and the Samso Energy Academy serves as a visitor and educational center for the many tourists. For more information on Samso and its sustainability initiatives please check out this article by Scientific American.

Readers may find it significant that a resident of Samso Island traveled all the way to Greensburg not long after the tornado in 2007 to offer support, share information about their projects, and check out the local Green Initiative.


Gusts Toward Clean Energy

Photo credit Greensburg GreenTownHere in Greensburg we all know about the power of the wind.  Though the wind can have devastating effects, it can also be harnessed for clean energy, something the town has taken advantage of through turbines.  While turbines are great for a rural setting, it is unsafe to operate them in an urban area.  In order for urban places to take advantage of the clean energy, the power generated by turbines must travel through power lines.  Unfortunately, much of the power is lost during its journey from turbine to urban home.

However, there is a solution for transporting this cleanly generated energy in an efficient way.  A high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line can provide a way for moving energy generated in rural wind turbines to urban cities.  It is the most efficient and cost effective way to move large amounts of electricity over long distances.  A HVCD line provides lower electricity losses and a smaller footprint compared to alternating current (AC) lines.  HVDC lines do have a downside.  The lines require expensive power converters and have higher maintenance needs than AC lines.  The costs, though, are balanced by the efficiency of clean energy transportation.

Image from http://www.grainbeltexpresscleanline.com/site/page/location

Clean Line Energy Partners is a company that wishes to utilize HVDC technology and build a line that would travel from western Kansas wind farms to cities in Missouri, Illinois, and farther east.  The Houston-based company says the lack of transmission availability has prevented some Kansas wind farms from being further developed.  They hope to overcome this by building the Grainbelt Express Clean Line, a 700 mile overhead HVDC line.  The company has recently received unanimous approval from the Kansas Corporation Commission to conduct business as a public utility.  This brings Clean Line Energy one step closer to construction of their proposed line.

The $2 billion project will be completely privately funded and run off fees from wind farms and those who purchase the energy, so it won't be a burden on Kansas taxpayers.  Not only does the Grainbelt Express Clean Line promise to expand the use of clean wind energy, but it also will benefit the economy by providing new jobs.  The construction of the line estimates the creation of 5,000 construction jobs and the operation and maintenance will go on to make approximately 500 jobs.  The 3,500 megawatts of renewable energy traveling from western Kansas will be able to power up to 1.4 million homes.  What an exciting opportunity for clean energy growth!


MARET: A Midwestern Gem

photo credit: Catherine Hart

Readers who follow GreenTown's activities know that we have been working with folks in the city of Joplin, Missouri, to help facilitate the integration of sustainability into the rebuilding process. Residents of that community are facing the daunting task of restoring a devastated area that runs about a mile wide and 6 miles long through the center of town. In addition to the loss of 162 lives, over 8,000 housing units and 300 businesses were destroyed during the May 22 tornado.

One of the sustainable gems we have encountered in our work in the region is a two-year institution of higher learning, Crowder College, home of the Missouri Alternative and Renewable Energy Technology (MARET) Center. Reading about the work they have been doing there since the late 1970s is sure to impress you.

Click to read more ...


Another Wind Turbine on the Horizon

The Greensburg skyline now includes one more wind turbine. The recently installed 50 kW turbine at the Kiowa County Memorial Hospital seems to have appeared overnight. Mary Sweet, the hospital Administrator, commented on the fact that everything was much smoother with the installation of their second turbine. The turbine is on a 140-foot tower, and is expected to produce more energy than the first, which is at 100 feet. It was decided to add 40 feet to the tower after comparing energy output from the hospital’s first turbine and the 140 foot tower just down the road at the Kiowa County School. Wind velocities increase significantly with the altitude. Doubling the height of a wind turbine increases energy production by as much as eight times.

The hospital is certified with the LEED Platinum, the highest certification offered. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and is an internationally-recognized green building certification process developed over a decade ago by the U.S. Green Building Council. The hospital is also the first LEED Platinum certified critical access hospital in the country. Energy efficiency and renewable energy were a major focus in the certification of the building, considering that other green building practices such as utilizing natural light and air circulation could not be focal points in the design due to health care requirements.  

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Kansas Officials Explore German Partnership on Wind Energy

Image courtesy of efficientgreenpower.com

Jens Eckhoff, chief executive of the German Offshore Wind Energy Foundation, met with several Wichita area officials, as well as Kansas Governor Sam Brownback earlier this month.  This September 12-13 visit was organized by NAI John T. Arnold Associates, a Wichita developer. The goal of the visit was to target relationships that could lead German wind power firms to locate in the Wichita area.

Possible German business targets include wind energy firms, their subcontractors, and other service providers, including wind tower maintenance. Meetings were held with the Wichita Area Technical College and Wichita State University about potential technician training. The group also toured the Kansas Logistics Park in Newton, which is very interested in alternative energy tenants. Continued discussion between the German wind executives and Wichita officials and businesses is expected, along with sending a delegation to one of Germany’s wind trade shows.

Kansas has the second-highest wind energy potential in the U.S., behind Texas. And Germany has the second-highest number of wind farms in the world, after the U.S. There is definitely some symmetry in this proposed partnership. We will keep you posted on this developing story.

Click to read more ...