25% local renewables success stories

Cities and towns around the world are deploying high percentages of clean local energy

The Clean Coalition's vision

From 2025 onward, at least 25% of all electricity generated from newly added generation capacity in the United States will be from local renewable energy sources.

Satellite map showing the san diego area with overlaid blue lines and text annotations indicating various locations and their kilowatt totals.

Cities are ideal for hosting renewable energy

The Clean Coalition’s Solar Siting Surveys show significant solar siting potential on built environments in cities, even in densely populated areas.

  • Our Solar Siting Survey for the City of San Diego identified approximately 500 megawatts (MW) of technical solar siting potential on over 120 discrete sites.
  • This is enough to fulfill the average power needs of about 500,000 homes during peak solar production hours.
  • Each site identified has the potential to host at least 1 MW on rooftops, parking lots, and parking structures located at the site.
  • With a smaller minimum project size of 500 kilowatts (kW), San Diego’s solar siting potential would likely increase to about 1 gigawatt (GW) — and 2 GW if considering projects as small as 100 kW.
Solar panels installed on a rooftop with a backdrop of skyscrapers in an urban setting.

The percentage of local renewables is increasing

                  2017 electricity generation from renewables in the U.S.

Sources: Institute for Local Self-Reliance, U.S. Energy Information Administration

We’re getting closer to 25% for newly added local generation capacity: the total went from 13% in 2016 to 16% in 2017.

25% or more is already here in some locations — especially cities:

  • Many cities are adopting ambitious renewable energy goals
  • These goals don’t all include high levels of local renewables
  • Some cities are showing the way, going beyond high percentages of newly added renewables to high percentages of total electricity generation from local renewables
Aerial view of a large solar farm with rows of solar panels amidst green fields, with farm buildings in the background.

U.S. success stories

Honorable Mention renewable cities:

  • Georgetown, TX — About 90% of the city’s power comes from wind and solar power, most of which is remotely located; the town wants to encourage more locally generated solar power by leasing residential and commercial rooftop area. The solar-generated electricity will be fed into the city-owned grid for use by all constituents.
  • Chicago, IL — About 1,100 residences and businesses in Bronzeville neighborhood to be powered by over 5 MW of local solar plus 2 clustered microgrids; ten critical-service facilities will be powered during an outage.
  • Las Vegas, NV — All of the city’s 140 municipal facilities are powered primarily by a 64 MW local solar plant

U.S. case studies

Minster, Ohio


  • Three-phase effort to install over 25 MW of local solar+storage interfaced to a microgrid.
  • Phase 1 local solar+storage facility is complete; it powers about half of the homes for the 3,000 residents, and part of a Dannon yogurt manufacturing plant.
  • By the end of Phase 3, local renewables will completely power the Dannon yogurt manufacturing plant and a new Dannon distribution center. Implementation approaches are being evaluated to offer community solar to all of the town’s residences and small businesses.

Key activities (April 2016 to Q1 2019)

  • Phase 1 is complete: 4.2 MW local solar plant and 7 MW of battery storage.
  • Phases 2 and 3 are under way concurrently; will be complete by Q1 2019.
  • Phase 2 will add another 4.2 MW of solar and 7 MW of storage to Dannon facility.
  • Phase 3 will add 19 MW of additional solar and a microgrid for community solar for all of Minster’s residences and businesses, with excess power sold back to the grid.

Burlington, Vermont


  • Burlington is generating 100% of its power from renewables: 60% from biomass, 19% from hydro, 19% from wind, and 2% from solar.
  • About 75% of the power is obtained from local biomass, hydro, and solar plants.
  • Excess energy is sold to other entities in the form of RECs; revenue earned is used to help keep renewable energy rates constant.

Key activities (2008 to 2018)

  • Replaced coal-fired plant with city-owned 50 MW biomass plant.
  • City purchased privately owned 7.5 MW Winooski hydro plant.
  • City formed its own utility and built its own city-wide grid.
Row of modern, colorful houses with solar panels on the roofs, under a clear blue sky in an urban area.

International success stories

Honorable Mention renewable cities:

  • Feldheim, Germany — 47 wind turbines meet the power needs of this village of 120 people; about 99% of the wind power generated is sold back to the grid
  • Catania, Italy — Sicilian city of about 300,000 people; 10 MW local solar plant plus microgrid powers about 10% of the city’s needs

International case studies

Lakeland, Australia


  • All of the renewable power comes from a 13 MW solar farm and a microgrid with 1.4 MW/5.3 MWh lithium-ion battery (Lakeland 1 project).
  • About 40% of the town’s power is currently provided by the solar+storage.
  • Current islanding capability can power > 1000 homes from the microgrid for several hours during an outage.
  • Local solar plant is currently operated by Conergy; town has option to purchase and operate the plant.
  • Renewable power is delivered to the town’s businesses and residences at fixed rates over a local grid as part of a WDG system.

Key activities (2016 to 2019)

  • Lakeland 1 project installed a large solar farm and microgrid on town-owned land.
  • Lakeland 2 project (Q3 2018 start) will add 17 MW of additional solar capacity and more energy storage, enough to power the entire town for about 24 hours, or potentially only critical facilities for a longer period.

Freising District, Germany


  • A renewables challenge among the 24 municipalities in the Freising District of Bavaria resulted in 6 achieving 100% renewables-generated electricity; renewables use across the district is currently at 70%.
  • District-wide, about 42% of energy is generated from local renewables; nearly 12% comes from solar and wind, about 30% from bioenergy plants.
  • More than 60% of the municipalities get at least half of their power from renewables
  • In municipalities using solar power, the solar power is generated from local community solar plants and sold to residences and businesses at a fixed rate over a local grid.

Key activities (2008 to 2018)

  • The 24 municipalities are choosing renewable power sources based on their unique power needs.
  • Based on the current rate of implementation, the entire district could generate 100% of its power from renewables by 2025.

Wildpoldsried, Germany


  • This Bavarian town of 2,800 residences generates 100% of its power from renewables — 80% from local wind, biogas, and solar facilities.
  • Power is delivered to all of the town’s businesses and residences at fixed rates over a local grid as part of a WDG system.
  • Excess renewable energy is sold back to the regional utility; revenue from those sales supports upgrades to the town’s local grid.

Key activities (1997 to 2018)

  • Local renewables installed include 11 wind turbines (72% of total generated energy in 2017), five biogas plants (18%), and 5 MW of solar (10%). In 2017, 7,000 MWh of energy was used by the town, and over 45,000 MWh of energy was sent back to the grid.
  • Siemens recently installed a microgrid consisting of a lithium-ion battery storage system, backup diesel generator (using vegetable oil), load bank, and communications and control equipment.
  • Electric vehicle charging infrastructure tied to the town’s microgrid is being installed.

Saerbeck, Germany


  • This German town of 7,200 inhabitants generates 400% of its power from renewables.
  • An Energy Cooperative was established that includes 400 people, who, as main investors, transformed an ammunition camp to a BioEnergy Park.
  • Saerbeck’s secret has been the foundation of their Energy Cooperative ownership and the involvement of most of the city’s citizens.

Key activities (2009 to 2019)

  • The BioEnergy Park includes 5.7 MW of solar, 21 MW of wind turbines, and two 1 MW biogas plants — one owned by the municipality and the other by local farmers — totaling 29 MW of electrical power.
  • Saerbeck’s Climate Community Project helped with the installation of more than 500 solar and other energy projects.

Solar panels in the foreground overlooking a brightly illuminated cityscape during twilight.

Getting to 25% local renewables and beyond

Keys to success

  • Create a sustainability plan that guides all future renewables and grid activities.
  • Involve all community stakeholders in plan buy-in.
  • Involve neighboring communities to expand the program impact, and to ensure sufficient land and facilities for installation of renewables.
  • Back long-term plans with short-term actions; show success in a neighborhood before expanding to larger areas of the city.
  • Use local renewables to the maximum extent possible to maintain control of energy generation, and to reduce the likelihood of extended outages.
  • Supplement the power grid with an islanded microgrid to enhance resilience, and to power critical facilities during outages.

Research credit

Special thanks for the research for these case studies to Mort Cohen, Principal, RevGen Consulting Group.

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