These news stories about cities producing most or all of their energy from renewable sources are the feel-good stories of the year.
Wind, water and biomass are providing all of Burlington’s electricity, and this city is the largest in Vermont. So, critics can’t say, “It’s just a little village, probably has 800 people, that’s not feasible anywhere else.” However, the population of Burlington is about 42,000. It’s not a large city by any means, but it also is not a tiny town where adding some solar and one wind turbine would cover everyone’s electricity.
Actually, it was the purchase of a 7.4 MW hydroelectric facility on the Winooski River that put Burlington at 100% renewable electricity. Christopher Recchia, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service, “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.”
It’s not surprising that a city in Vermont would achieve renewable energy independence, because the state has been environmentally conscious for a long time. In an article about America’s greenest states, Forbes ranked Vermont number one, in a tie with Oregon. Washington state was number three.
In fact, Vermont has a goal of generating 90% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2050. The small, northern state was the first to ban fracking, so it won’t be too surprising if it can operate on mostly renewable energy, too.
For example, the Burlington situation doesn’t include much solar power, but as a state, Vermont is investing in solar. A new installation of 2.7-megawatts was recently completed at a landfill near Coventry.
In addition to taking care of the environment for the sake of caring about something very important, Vermont hosts about 13 million tourists each year. They spend approximately $1.4 billion annually.
The number of permanent residents in the state is only 626,000. Twenty times this number visit as tourists, and this is partly due to how much natural beauty remains intact there.
Sometimes conservation is criticized for being a barrier to economic growth, but in Vermont’s case, the preservation of natural resources has contributed greatly to the local economy.
It will intriguing to see if running on 100% renewable energy will draw additional tourists to Burlington.