- Municipally-owned utilities are investing in renewables while measuring energy use in buildings
- Retrofitting & modernizing aged homes and commercial structures
- The town’s plan was to go beyond a “net zero” electricity goal
The southeastern Iowa town of Bloomfield (population 2,600) is trying to do something that few small towns have attempted, much less succeeded at: becoming 100% energy self-sufficient with a multi-prong approach. Bloomfield, which has a large amount of energy-inefficient structures, controls its own municipal electric and gas utilities – thus making it easy to access data about the energy usage for each building. The average Bloomfield home uses 66% more energy than average homes across the Midwest.
Reaching 100% energy independence requires much more than simply building out a clean energy infrastructure and adding renewables at the utility level. Increasing energy efficiency in existing buildings, employing new technologies and traditional retrofits (like increased insulation), and improving energy conservation must all be added to the equation.
Interestingly, the residents of Bloomfield discussed which path to pursue toward achieving a cleaner, greener future and opted to go beyond a “net zero” electricity goal. Instead, the town set their sights on achieving “energy independence.” So while this town made a choice to rely heavily (though not exclusively) on wind and solar, they then broadened their scope of work to modernize existing residential and commercial structures and make them as energy efficient as possible.
The town has conducted energy audits; installed a 1.8 Megawatt solar plant to supply 10% of Bloomfield’s electricity needs; then staged a “Summer of Light” event that got more than a third of the town’s residents to change out their incandescent light bulbs for low-energy LED, free of charge. Bloomfield’s next step is the development of a plan for low-income residents to install solar panels, while at the same time increasing their utility’s wind portfolio.
More than 100 cities nationwide are now committed to energy independence—and some have already achieved it, like Burlington, VT, and Aspen, CO. Bloomfield realizes that their success will come from a unique mix: aggressively building-out renewables for its municipally-owned utilities, while investing in individuals and businesses to commit to energy efficiency.
What We’re Reading: “Voices Of 100%: Small Iowa Town Pushes For Energy Independence” as published on Clean Technica