Mayor Rahm Emanuel is in a race to make Chicago a renewable energy powerhouse. After announcing plans in early April to have all city buildings run 100 percent on renewable energy by 2025, city officials also announced that 14 new buildings joined the Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge.

Within five years of joining the challenge, participants are expected to reduce their overall energy usage by at least 20 percent and track the progress to share with the community through the Energy Star Portfolio Manager. Participants are also expected to engage with other building managers to promote saving energy. The current total participation in the program is 76 buildings spanning more than 50 million square feet of space.

Nearing the goal of 80 total participating buildings, the Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge is one of three components of the bigger Retrofit Chicago program that spans across the city to improve the energy efficiency of residential, commercial, industrial, and municipal buildings. The volunteer program is among the largest of its kind, according to city officials. 

The Shedd Aquarium on the Near South Side is one of the newest major buildings taking part in the challenge, having recently installed 900 solar panels in hopes of reducing its energy usage by 50 percent in the next three years. The aquarium also swapped out nearly 1,000 light bulbs for LED and installed a 60,000-pound, one-megawatt battery on its property.

“As the Trump administration pulls back on building a clean energy economy, Chicago is doubling down,” Mayor Emanuel said in a press release. “By committing the energy used to power our public buildings to wind and solar energy, we are sending a clear signal that we remain committed to building a 21st century economy here in Chicago.”

Mayor Emanuel’s plan includes all buildings operated by Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Housing Authority, City Colleges of Chicago, and the Chicago Park District. One of the newest participants in the program is a set of affordable housing properties managed by the Chicago Housing Authority.

Retrofit Chicago won the Inspiring Efficiency Impact Award through the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance in January 2015.