Vermont's Largest City Marks Major Climate Goal

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Vermont's Largest City Marks Major Climate Goal

With recent acquisition of a hydroelectric dam, Burlington now secures 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources

The view from atop the Winooski One hydroelectric project. (Photo: Don Shall)

While few local governments have taken any serious steps to address for the pending climate crisis, the city of Burlington, Vermont—home to roughly 42,000 people—now boasts a 100 percent renewable energy supply.

Earlier this month, Burlington Electric Department announced the purchase of the 7.4-megawatt Winooski One hydroelectric project on the Winooski River located on the city’s edge, allowing the city to achieve their long-standing goal of complete renewable power generation. The utility will now get about one-third of its power from two hydroelectric stations, Winooski and Hydro-Québec, one-third from wind energy, and one-third from the Joseph C. McNeil Generating Station—a biomass facility that primarily uses leftover wood chips.

Announcing the deal, Mayor Miro Weinberger said that the transition to completely renewable power allows the city to achieve their climate action goals as well as secure both a stable and low cost energy supply.

"It shows that we’re able to do it, and we’re able to do it cost effectively in a way that makes Vermonters really positioned well for the future," Christopher Recchia, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service, told the Associated Press.

The milestone is part of Vermont's larger state-wide goal of securing 90 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2050. The city now joins the Washington Electric Cooperative, located just east of Burlington, which delivers 100 percent renewable energy to roughly 11,000 rural residents in northern and central Vermont.

However, as AP points out, both utilities acknowledge that when renewable sources are not producing enough power, they will need to purchase energy from alternate sources—some powered by fossil fuels.

The purchase of the dam was made possible by a $12 million bond that won a unanimous vote from the Burlington City Council and 79 percent approval from Burlington voters at the state's annual Town Meeting Day in early March.

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