From Tragedy to Triumph: Rebuilding Greensburg, Kansas, To Be a 100% Renewable Energy City

From Open Energy Information


The city of Greensburg, Kansas, is rebuilding as a model green community with the help of the U.S. Department of Energy and its National Renewable Energy Laboratory. A tornado destroyed or damaged 95% of the town's homes and businesses on May 4, 2007. Greensburg turned disaster into opportunity and created a vision to rebuild as a sustainable community. The town has gathered a diverse group of experts, including DOE and NREL, to make their vision of rebuilding green a reality. The resource highlights all other steps of the energy transformation process, from bringing the right people into the process, through the evaluation of effectiveness once projects have been completed.  The paper highlights technical information for several technologies ranging over Agriculture, Buildings, Economic Development, Energy Efficiency, Industry, People and Policy, Transportation, and Water Conservation.  Renewable Energy technologies highlighted in the paper include Biomass, Ground Source Heat Pumps, Solar Photovoltaics and Hot Water, Waterpower, and Wind Power. This case study complements NREL's more detailed technical report on the lab's work with the Greensburg community (see "Rebuilding Greensburg, Kansas as a Model Green Community: A Case Study," available at

Community Information
Name Greensburg, Kansas
Type City
Population 2,421[2]
Community Energy Goals All new homes will use 30%-40% less energy than before the tornado

New city buildings will achieve LEED Platinum certification Other commercial and public buildings will be designed to LEED Platinum or Gold rating levels 100% renewable electricity 100% of the time Reduce GHG emissions by 36% relative to pre-tornado emissions

Baseline Estimated 2005 energy consumption: 15.6 million kWh; 92 mcf; 1.6 million gallons gasoline; 415,000 gallons diesel (taken from Billman, 2009 report)
Results to Date 4 LEED Platinum commercial buildings

Of the first 190 homes built after the tornado, about half were analyzed for expected energy savings (heat and electricity), and averaged 40% less energy use than code Wind farm that produces 12.5 MW of energy, or enough to power every home, business, and municipal building in the town, as well as surrounding areas 2008 annualized total electricity use: 8 million kWh (with 800 out of the original 1,400 residents)


Based on lessons learned from technical assistance provided by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Greensburg, Kansas, this This conference paper was presented at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) Summer Study conference August 15-20, 2010, in Pacific Grove, California. In addition to providing a concise overview of Greensburg's energy efficiency and renewable energy planning process and progress to date, the report also includes a list of "key lessons learned" from this project, which may be useful and applicable to other communities.

Environmental Aspects

Greensburg's energy goals include: powering all local homes and businesses with "100% renewable energy, 100% of the time;" implementing residential and commercial retrofits that result in 40% and 30% energy savings, respectively, relative to buildings built to the 2003 International Energy Conservation Code with 2004 Supplement. Residential energy efficiency performance metrics: 52% of the new homes permitted between May, 2007 and March, 2009 were voluntarily rated for energy efficiency. Of these, 9 townhome rental units are projected to use 41% less energy than a standard home.  The total 33 homes that were renovated and measured will use on average 25% less energy than a standard home.  Construction is also complete on the 12.5MW Greensburg Wind Farm.  An estimated one quarter of the energy produced by this farm will be used to provide electricity to Greensburg. This case study also claims that 120 new jobs were created through the BTI Wind Energy dealer network. 

Related Tools

The case study highlights the use of the BeOPT computer model to develop specification packages to support Greensburg's goal of rebuilding homes with a 30% or higher improved energy efficiency. The report also mentions the use of EnergyPlus to optimize the design of commercial buildings intended to achieve a LEED Platinum rating.


  1.  "From Tragedy to Triumph: Rebuilding Greensburg, Kansas, To Be a 100% Renewable Energy City"
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