After being levelled by a tornado, the small farming community of Greensburg, Kansas built back green. It’s now a model for other other rebuilding cities across the globe.

Each week we summarize three pieces of news that give us hope for a greener, brighter future. Follow Emeraldology on social media or sign up for our weekly newsletter to have Hopeful Headlines sent directly to your inbox!

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The town that built back green

By Annie Gowen, The Washington Post, October 23, 2020

  • After a tornado demolished the town of Greensburg and killed 12 people, the small Kansas farming community built back green by prioritizing renewable energy and energy efficiency. So far, those efforts have shown significant economic and ecological benefits.
  • The rebuilt town runs on 100% renewable energy from a nearby wind farm; features LEED certified energy-efficient municipal buildings; saves “thousands of gallons of water” and illuminates its streets with LED lighting.
  • The Money Quote: “An NREL study from 2011 showed that 13 of the city’s “smart” buildings save about a combined $200,000 a year in utility costs, and the homes consume about 40 percent less energy on average than before the tornado.”

Why it matters: The tiny town of Greensburg is now consulting green rebuild efforts in Nashville, Joplin, and even disaster struck cities in Japan, China and Australia. Greensburg also proves that investing in green infrastructure doesn’t need to be a political issue — and shouldn’t be. Greensburg sits in Kiowa County, where Trump (who overwhelming supports fossil fuel infrastructure) drew 83% of the votes in 2016. Yet the town still found it more prudent to focus on renewable energy.

It’s Official: Solar Is the Cheapest Electricity in History

By Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, October 22, 2020

  • An International Energy Agency report dubs solar “the cheapest for of electricity for utility companies to build.” A breakdown of the report by Carbon Brief says solar output by 2040 is expected to increase 43% more than a previous estimate in 2018 because solar is 20-50% cheaper than expected.
  • The IEA attributes the low cost to risk-reducing financing policies, saying solar is cheapest in “locations with both the most favorable policies and the easiest access to financing.”
  • The Money Quote: “Solar is well positioned to blow up in the next 10 years, the IEA says, because right now it’s in the sweet spot of low cost and increasing availability. All the pathways listed include a mix of renewables, nuclear, and shrinking coal and gas power.”

Why it matters: I’m not sure if I have to explain this one. The argument against solar has long been it’s too expensive, yet here it is as the cheapest electricity source in history. And then brings us to headline number 3…

How Does Your State Make Electricity?

By Nadja Popovich and Brad Plumer, The New York Times, October 28, 2020

  • The New York Times tracked and charted each state’s energy mix between 2001 and 2019 to show the changes in how America makes electricity. Open the article to see a graph of your state’s energy mix over the last 18 years.
  • Some of the highlights:
    • Coal’s decline has accelerated in recent years, despite President Trump’s efforts to deregulate and revive the industry.
    • Natural gas is dominant while wind and solar are growing quickly.
    • Wind power has surged in the Great Plains and is the leading electricity source in Iowa.
    • Clean energy goals are driving demand for renewables like wind and solar.
  • The Money Quote: “Natural gas has come out on top in recent years, but clean technologies like wind turbines, solar panels and batteries have fallen so far in price that they are now often the cheapest option available. Concerns over climate change have prompted many states to envision a shift away from gas, which, although cleaner than coal, is a major source of planet-warming emissions like carbon dioxide and methane.”

Why it matters: Simply put, the energy used to heat, cool and power your home makes up the biggest part of your carbon footprint. It’s basically the foot, and everything else is just toes. Understanding your state’s energy mix is the first step in demanding and making changes to it.

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Feature photo from zstockphotos.