On Sept. 20, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) kicked off its yearlong Green Power Community Challenge for cities, towns, villages and Native American tribes that are part of EPA's Green Power Partnership (GPP). The participants are vying to increase their community's use of energy from alternative sources, such as wind or solar power systems, by the greatest percentage.

GPP has two goals for the challenge, says GPP Director Blaine Collison. The first is to add new communities to the GPP roster, and the second is to double the total aggregate amount of green power they use, he says. Communities can join the challenge at any time.

A Green Power Community since March 2008, Santa Clara, Calif., currently holds the No. 1 spot among other participants for total kilowatt hours of annual green power use. Approximately 7 percent of residences and businesses purchase green power from the city-owned utility, Silicon Valley Power (SVP). “Being the No. 1 green power city shows the world that American companies can have renewable power at a highly competitive cost,” says Santa Clara Mayor Patricia Mahan. “It's a winning economic and environmental formula for everyone in the city.”

SVP customers can either purchase 100 percent renewable energy for a penny and a half extra per kilowatt hour or a blend of renewable energy credits that meet their needs, says Deputy City Manager Carol McCarthy. “[Our] corporate customers are willing to pay a small premium on their electric consumption to achieve this goal,” McCarthy says. “The average [participant] will prevent 7,310 pounds of carbon dioxide and harmful particulates [from entering] the atmosphere each year.”

Annie Gentile is a Vernon, Conn.-based freelance writer.

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