In the Know: Identifying tips and practices for a more sustainable future

River Falls, WI powers all city buildings with 100% renewable energy

River Falls, WI – On Jan. 1, 2020, the City of River Falls became the first municipality in the state of Wisconsin to power all city buildings and streetlights using 100% renewable energy. The initiative is part of Renewable River Falls, launched on Nov. 29, 2019 to coincide with the City’s River Dazzle Celebration. Renewable River Falls is the culmination of a years-long effort to reduce the city’s use of fossil fuels.

In addition to adopting simple conservation measures such as shutting off idling motors and installing LEDs and occupancy sensors, the City also built a community solar program and encouraged its electricity supplier, Wisconsin Public Power Inc., to offer more electricity from renewable sources. This allowed the City to reach its 100% renewable energy goal through the purchase of “green blocks,” which are units of 300 kilowatt hours (kWh) of renewable energy – from wind turbines, solar panels and biomass gases captured from landfills. The green blocks are also available to River Falls Municipal Utilities customers.

“As a city and Utility our goal was to lead by example,” said Mike Noreen, the City’s Conservation and Efficiency Coordinator. “We asked our customers to use less through conservation, to upgrade to greater energy efficiency and to then switch from fossil fuels to renewables. To their credit, they did it! The community utilized our energy efficiency programs and reduced their energy use but also really embraced our renewable energy programs. So really the community led us.”

City buildings that are now powered with 100% renewable energy include City Hall, the Public Library, the Public Works Garage, the Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Public Safety and EMS buildings and Glen Park Pool.

River Falls residents have been voluntarily purchasing green blocks since 2004 with a current participation rate of 12%, making the City first in the state and fifth in the nation for green energy participation.

“We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response to the transition to renewables,” Noreen said. “People see the Green Blocks as an immediate, simple, inexpensive way to lower their carbon footprint.”

For additional information:
Mike Noreen
City of River Falls Conservation and Efficiency Coordinator

For resources and tools related to sustainability, visit the Center for Sustainability (C4S) and C4S Toolkit.