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State and Local Climate and Energy Program

Renewable Energy

Green Power Opportunities

Local governments can dramatically reduce their carbon footprint by purchasing or directly generating electricity from clean, renewable sources.

The most common renewable power technologies include at a minimum:

  • Solar (photovoltaic, solar thermal)
  • Wind
  • Biogas (e.g., landfill gas/wastewater treatment digester gas)
  • Geothermal
  • Biomass
  • Low-impact hydroelectricity
  • Emerging technologies - wave and tidal power

Local governments can lead by example by generating energy on–site, purchasing green power, or purchasing renewable energy. Using a combination of renewable energy options can help meet local government goals especially in some regions where availability and quality of renewable resources vary.

Options for using renewable energy include:

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Benefits of Renewable Energy

Environmental and economic benefits of using renewable energy include:

  • Generating energy that produces no greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and reduces some types of air pollution
  • Diversifying energy supply and reducing dependence on imported fuels
  • Creating economic development and jobs in manufacturing, installation, and more

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Implementing On-site Renewable Energy Projects

On-site power generation provides local governments with the most direct access to renewable energy. In addition to the overall benefits, on-site projects also provide a hedge against financial risks and improve power quality and supply reliability.

However, local governments considering on-site generation may face possible technical, financial, and regulatory challenges. To overcome these challenges, local governments can:

  • Assess the availability of local renewable resources
  • Consider the costs of different renewable technologies
  • Examine the aggregate costs and benefits of on-site green power
  • Consider permitting requirements for locations where the facility could be sited
  • Involve local stakeholders, particularly concerning siting
  • Assess available sources of financing and other incentives

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Tools and Resources

General Renewable Energy | Biomass/Biogas | Solar | Wind

General Renewable Energy

Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE)

DSIRE Exit EPA disclaimer is a comprehensive source of information on the status of state programs and incentives promoting renewable energy, including information on financial incentives and net metering policies, as well as related awareness and investment programs.

Guide to Purchasing Green Power

EPA's Guide to Purchasing Green Power (PDF) (50 pp, 1.1MB) provides current and potential buyers of green power with information about green power purchasing. The Guide includes information about the different types of green power products, the benefits of green power purchasing, and how to capture the greatest benefit from your purchase. The Guide is the product of a cooperative effort between the EPA, the U.S. Department of Energy, the World Resources Institute, and the Center for Resource Solutions.

In My Backyard (IMBY) Solar and Wind Placement Tool

The In My Backyard (IMBY) tool developed by NREL estimates solar photovoltaic (PV) array and wind turbine electricity production based on your specifications of system size, location, and other variables. IMBY uses a Google Maps interface to allow you to choose a system location with pinpoint accuracy. It then draws data for that location from one of NREL's renewable resource databases to estimate your potential electricity production.

Local Government Climate and Energy Strategy Series

The Local Government Climate and Energy Strategy Series provide a comprehensive, straightforward overview of local government greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction strategies. Staff can use these guides to plan, implement, and evaluate climate and energy projects. Each guide provides an overview of project benefits, policy mechanisms, investments, key stakeholders, and other implementation considerations. Examples and case studies are incorporated throughout the guides. Topics covered in the guides include energy efficiency, transportation, urban planning and design, solid waste and materials management, and renewable energy.

State Maps of Renewable Energy Potential on Contaminated Lands

These maps show properties with renewable energy generation potential on contaminated lands and mining sites in all 50 states.

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Biomass Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Catalog of Technologies

The Biomass Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Catalog of Technologies provides a detailed technology characterization of biomass CHP Systems. The report reviews the technical and economic characterization of biomass resources, biomass preparation, energy conversion technologies, power productions systems, and complete integrated systems.

Biomass Resource Assessment Tool

This online biomass mapping tool allows users to select a location on the map, quantify the biomass resources available within a user-defined radius, and then estimate the total thermal energy or power that could be generated by recovering a portion of that biomass.

Biomass Resource Maps

This website provides county–level biomass resource maps , which are useful for states interested in their feedstock potential in the following categories: crop residues, forest residues, primary mill residues, secondary mill residues, urban wood waste, methane emissions from landfills, methane emissions from manure management, methane emissions from wastewater treatment plants, and dedicated energy crops.

The report Geographic Perspective on the Current Biomass Resource Availability in the United States (PDF) (70 pp, 2.5M) provides the basis for the resource maps.

Coordinated Resource Offering Protocol (CROP) Evaluations

This Web page provides the results of tenCROP evaluations Exit EPA disclaimer that have been conducted for more than 30 million acres of public forestlands potentially vulnerable to wildfires. The evaluations contain detailed resource-offering maps that illustrate the growing fuel load problem within major forest systems and quantify the biomass available for removal within five years.

Forest Inventory Data Online (FIDO)

This online tool provides access to the National Forest Inventory and Analysis databases . It can be used to generate tables and maps of forest statistics by running standard reports for a specific state or county and survey year, or customized reports based on criteria selected by the user.

Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) Landfill Database

The Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) Landfill Database provides a nationwide listing of operational and under construction LFG energy projects; candidate municipal solid waste landfills having LFG energy potential; and information on additional landfills that could represent LFG energy opportunities.

Market Opportunities for Biogas Recovery Systems

This report (PDF) (40 pp, 3.05M) assesses the market potential for biogas energy projects at swine and dairy farms in the United States. For the top ten swine and dairy states, the guide characterizes the sizes and types of operations where biogas projects are technically feasible, along with estimates of potential methane production, electricity generation, and greenhouse gas emission reductions.

State Assessment for Biomass Resources (SABRE)

SABRE Exit EPA disclaimer features state–specific information on conventional fuel and biofuel use, ethanol and biodiesel stations and production plants, and biofuel production capacities. In addition, it offers state–by–state snapshots of available feedstocks, data on potential production capacities, and projections on the future use of biofuels.

State Bioenergy Primer

The State Bioenergy Primer (PDF) (104 pp, 5.25M) offers succinct descriptions of biomass feedstocks, conversion technologies, and the benefits/challenges of promoting bioenergy. It includes a step-wise framework, resources, and tools for determining the availability of feedstocks, assessing potential markets for biomass, and identifying opportunities for action at the state level. The primer also describes financial, policy, regulatory, technology, and informational strategies for encouraging investment in bioenergy projects and advancing bioenergy goals.

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Customer's Guide to Solar Power Purchase Agreements

The Rahus Institute published a guide for organizations interested in purchasing solar electricity without buying solar equipment.The Customer's Guide to Solar Power Purchase Agreements Exit EPA disclaimer provides an explanation of this rapidly growing business model where a “solar services provider” installs the solar equipment at a university, business, or other organization, and the organization pays only for the solar electricity.

PV Watts Calculator

NREL's PVWatts™ calculator determines the energy production and cost savings of grid-connected photovoltaic (PV) energy systems throughout the world. It allows homeowners, installers, manufacturers, and researchers to easily develop estimates of the performance of hypothetical PV installations.

Solar Energy Technologies Program

The Solar Energy Technologies Program focuses on developing cost-effective solar energy technologies that have the greatest potential to benefit the nation and the world. Subprograms focus on photovoltaics, concentrating solar power, systems integration, and market transformation.

Solar Power Purchase Agreements

A Solar Power Purchase Agreement (SPPA) is a financial arrangement in which a third-party developer owns, operates, and maintains a photovoltaic (PV) system, and a customer hosts the system on its property and purchases the system's electric output for a predetermined period. EPA's Green Power Partnership has developed a Web page to provide information on SPPAs, how they are structured, and the benefits and challenges of implementing them.

Solar Powering Your Community: A Guide for Local Governments

The U.S. Department of Energy offers an online resource for local governments that assists community leaders and local stakeholders in building sustainable local solar markets. The online publication Solar Powering Your Community: A Guide for Local Governments provides local governments with proven best practices enabling them to drive economic development, support clean energy jobs, and reduce carbon emissions by building a robust local solar market.

The Installed Cost of Photovoltaics in the U.S.

Tracking the Sun: The Installed Cost of Photovoltaics in the U.S. from 1998-2007 summarizes trends in the installed cost of grid-connected PV systems in the United States from 1998 through 2007. The report is based on an analysis of installed cost data from nearly 37,000 residential and non-residential PV systems, totaling 363 MW of capacity, and representing 76% of all grid-connected PV capacity installed in the U.S. through 2007.

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US Department of Energy's Wind Program

DOE's Wind Program is part of the federal government's effort to support the increased deployment of wind energy facilities on public, private, and tribal lands, airspace, and offshore. This site is a resource for information on the siting of wind turbines and Federal activities to support the increased deployment of wind energy.

Utility Wind Integration Group

The mission of the Utility Wind Integration Group (UWIG) Exit EPA disclaimer is to accelerate the development and application of good engineering and operational practices supporting the appropriate integration of wind power into the electric system.

Wind Energy Guide for County Commissioners

The Wind Energy Guide for County Commissioners (PDF) (28 pp, 1.2M) provides county commissioners, planners, and other local county government officials with a practical overview of information required to successfully implement commercial wind energy projects in their county.

Wind Powering America

Wind Powering America is a commitment to dramatically increase the use of wind energy in the United States. WPA concentrates its efforts in “stuck” markets; develops innovative pilot projects; replicates successes; and develops and disseminates targeted information, analyses, and tools.

Wind Resource Maps

These high–resolution maps of wind energy resources allow for better siting of wind turbines and have led to the recognition of higher-class winds in new regions.

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