Wind turbines, just a small part of Burlington, Vermont's 100% renewable energy solution.
Wind turbines, just a small part of Burlington, Vermont’s 100% renewable energy solution.

If you ever get a chance, you should definitely take a ride through The Green Mountain State, Vermont, in the Northeast, one reason being that you can visit the Nation’s first city entirely powered by renewable energy, Burlington.

Seeing as Vermont is situated only about an hour from where I used to live, it should come as no surprise that I spent more than a few weekends there, exploring wondrous beauty that is the Vermont landscape. One thing that came to me as a surprise, at least the first couple of times that I drove through, were the wind turbines that occupy various ridges. They rise out of the mist, nearly silent, majestic, and supplying the region with a fairly steady supply of renewable energy.

Some might object and say that Vermont’s wind turbines would have to have some kind of consistent fossil fuel backup, which means that it’s a futile endeavor. On the other hand, a few places have proven that it is possible to run 100% renewable energy with no fossil fuel backup, such as the small German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern or some wind farms in the UK. For the United States, Burlington, Vermont is the nation’s first 100% renewable energy powered city.

Burlington, Vermont, a city of about 42,000, gets all of its energy from a range of renewable energy sources. Fully half of Burlington’s energy comes from hydroelectric dams, both in Vermont and surrounding region. Another 30% of Burlington’s energy comes from the McNeil biomass facility, which runs on wood chips from the regional logging industry. It should be noted that, in case of emergency, McNeil can run on oil or natural gas.

Interestingly, the McNeil biomass facility goes further than just burning wood chips, but also limits soot emissions (PM2.5 and PM10) in the exhaust to just a tenth allowed by Vermont emissions regulations. Finally, the last 20% of Burlington’s energy comes from wind turbines and photovoltaic solar panels. Aside from reducing emissions, Burlington, Vermont’s renewable energy plan ought to save the city some $20 million over the next decade.

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