- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced over the weekend that more than 900 city-owned buildings will shift to all renewable energy by 2025, making it the largest municipality in the country to make such a commitment.
- The goal is a heavy lift — the city's buildings, colleges, public schools and others, use almost 1.8 billion kilowatt-hours of energy last year, or about 8% of the city's total use. The city will acquire renewable energy credits to purchase renewable power from utilities and increase on-site generation to offset the building demand.
- The green energy trend for municipalities has been growing: Aspen, CO, Burlington, VT, Georgetown, TX, San Diego and San Francisco have all set similar goals.
Beginning next year, the city of Chicago will start acquiring renewable energy and investing in on-site generation to offset the demand from about 900 city-owned buildings. Acquiring enough renewable power to compensate for the building load is estimated to add 1% to power costs for the city initially, CBS Chicago reported, but will ultimately generate savings.
Chicago is the latest in a number of cities that are aiming to power their government-owned buildings completely by renewable energy. Las Vegas launched its Boulder Solar 1 array in December 2016, which allowed the city government to run on 100% renewable solar and hydroelectric energy. Other Las Vegas casinos are following the municipality's lead by turning to the installation of rooftop photovoltaic arrays for energy savings.
Chicago has ramped up its own efforts to move toward energy renewability with its ambitious energy benchmarking ordinance for buildings that requires properties larger than 50,000 square feet to report whole-building energy use annually and verify the data every three years.
Companies like Tesla are testing new areas of renewable energy uses, from the electric car maker's 70-megawatt solar farm at its Nevada gigafactory to its Powerwall and solar roof panels, strengthening renewable energy's foothold in the residential market. The selection of Mortenson to build a $1 billion 300-turbine wind farm in Colorado represents the company's largest wind project to-date and further solidifies its role in the renewable energy sector.
Across the construction industry, renewable energy projects, from photovoltaic arrays to wind turbines, are expected to pick up as more of these technologies are incorporated into buildings and developments. A report in January by the Department of Energy found that energy-related projects in the industry provided more than 2 million construction positions in 2016, accounting for nearly one-third of the construction workforce.