Burlington, the largest city in Vermont, has become the first city in the country to provide electricity to its residents using 100 percent renewable energy, PBS NewsHour reported.
The city recently announced that it’s now producing or getting more power than used by its citizens, all of which comes from wind, solar, and/or hydroelectric means.
Ken Nolan of Burlington Electric said that the switch from fossil fuels to green energy could save the city about $20 million dollars over the next two decades without costing customers more than they’re used to paying. In fact, Burlington’s electricity rates haven’t increased since 2009.
“The city is always looking at the environmental impact,” said Nolan. “Greenhouse gas reduction is a major thing that we’re concerned about and we are always trying to improve on. But in looking at whether to buy renewable power, we really were focused on an economic decision at the time.
“So our financial analysis at that time indicated … to our surprise that the cheapest long term financial investment for us with the least amount of risk was to move [towards renewable energy sources].”
As NewsHour’s William Brangham explained, about a third of Burlington’s renewable energy is produced at [a] biomass facility. “Biomass is just a fancy word for something that gets burned to produce energy – in this case, they haul in scrap wood from across Vermont, use the heat to make steam, and thus generate electricity.”
About another fifth of the energy comes from wind turbines and solar arrays, but the biggest source is from hydropower. “Water pressure from the river spins big underground turbines, which in turn generates electricity. All this is what accounts for the city’s ability to produce as much energy from renewables as it uses in a year.”
What Burlington has been able to accomplish is amazing. Using renewable energy sources at such a high rate, all while keeping costs down for the consumers proves that clean, green energy can be used on a wide scale.
As talks over the Keystone XL pipeline continue, fracking efforts expand, and the Obama administration opens up huge portions of the Atlantic Coast to oil and natural gas drilling, Burlington’s success shows that these environmentally irresponsible energy sources simply aren’t necessary anymore.
Watch NewsHour’s coverage of Burlington’s clean energy.