Varese Ligure, a town in Northern Italy, runs on 100% renewable power. The town uses a mix of wind, solar and small-scale hydropower. The town has reaped benefits from the energy network through added jobs, and an additional 350,000 euros [US $514,000] in revenues that are handed over to the council each year. Varese has also seen a six-fold increase in tourists in the last ten years, many coming just to see its renewable energy network.
Varese became the first municipality in Europe to get 100% of its power from renewable energy sources six years ago. It now generates three times more electricity than the people living in Varese need and there are plans in the pipeline for even more renewables.
The town has also launched initiatives to make Varese 100% sustainable. A total of 108 organic farms now supply 98 percent of the town’s food; water is purified using environmentally friendly technology, and waste has been significantly reduced.
Four wind turbines located on a ridge 1100 meters above sea level — where the average annual wind speed is 7.2 meters per second — generate 8 million kWh of electricity a year that is fed into the local grid managed by Acam, a power company in La Spezia. Photovoltaic (PV) panels have been installed on the town hall and the local school. The town hall has 102 PV panels covering 95 square meters and generating 12,700 kWh a year, which supplies 98 percent of the total energy consumption of the building. Varese’s secondary school has 39 PV panels covering 36 square meters and producing 4,600 kWh a year, which supplies 62 percent of the energy used.
In addition to the that, the town’s swimming pool is heated by solar power and a program to promote the use of wood pellet stoves is in the works.