July 15, 2008

Rocky Mountain Institute, abundance by design

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency has been a major focus for Rocky Mountain Institute since its inception, and most of its present activities grew out of a strategy of targeting sectors with the biggest energy-saving opportunities.

RMI's early energy work was aimed mainly at electric utilities and oil companies, advocating the advantages of reducing demand through efficiency rather than simply increasing supply. In recent years we've shown many other types of companies and organizations how they can boost profits by using energy more productively.

panel discussion on Negawatt energy:

Negawatt Energy Policy April 1996 special issue on the future of DSM

RMI energy library archives (Negawatt)

First Solar Town, http://www.soldiersgrove.com/History.htm

Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin

The pioneer of sustainable redevelopment for flood communities is Soldiers Grove, a picturesque village of about 600 on the banks of the Kickapoo River in southwest Wisconsin. Nearly 20 years ago, after decades of repeated flooding, residents decided to build a new town center on higher ground. The new Soldiers Grove was officially completed in 1983.

Soldiers Grove was ahead of its time for a number of reasons. First, by opting to relocate, the villagers chose to work with the river rather than attempt to control it. They chose mitigation at a time when dams and levees were hailed as monuments to society's dominion over nature.

Second, Soldiers Grove saw the relocation project not just as an opportunity to duplicate their old town, but as a chance to create something much better. Rather than rush to get buildings up and running as quickly as possible, the villagers took their time.

Beauford T. Anderson Park - Soldiers Grove

Perhaps the most dramatic outcome of that careful planning process was the decision to make all of the new town center buildings energy-efficient and solar-heated. Soldiers Grove became the first business district of its kind in the nation. The village passed ordinances stipulating that new buildings be built to specific thermal performance standards and obtain at least 50 percent of their heating needs with solar systems. Residents also passed a solar access ordinance to ensure that future buildings don't block the sun for existing structures.

Finally, Soldiers Grove pioneered the concept of "multipurpose recovery" for hazard-prone communities. The villagers used the occasion of relocation to solve a number of community problems. The energy efficiency and solar ordinances helped to keep valuable energy dollars from escaping the local economy. The old floodplain was developed into a well-used municipal park. The town center was once again adjacent to the state highway, which had bypassed the old town in the 1950s, hurting businesses. A second municipal well and reservoir were built outside the floodplain, and sewer and water services were extended into new areas, paving the way for future growth.

The steps taken by Soldiers Grove in the late 1970s are just as viable today, 20 years later. But although today's disaster-prone towns have better tools at their disposal, there remains much to be learned from Soldiers Grove in the area of organizing people. Even the most progressive and well-thought-out sustainable development plans will fail without the full support of the community. (article by http://www.freshstart.ncat.org/case/soldiers.htm).