Innovative Blend of Energy Sources
About 1/5 of the energy required to fuel the city comes from wind power. Sun Edison is a global renewable energy company that helps develop and build wind power plants. Sun Edison collaborated with Burlington for the 40 MW Project, which has been in operation for several years. This project utilizes wind energy. A smaller portion of the renewables come solar power.
Burlington International Airport has a 500 kilowatts solar array on top of the airport parking lot. This solar array generates 1.92 megawatts of power for the city.
The bulk of Burlington’s energy comes from hydropower, with the main facilities in Maine and the Winooski River. Burlington’s dedication to energy conservation has brought the city’s energy usage totals lower than they were 30 years ago, when the population was significantly smaller.
The Burlington Sustainability Program focuses on implementing the Climate Action Plan, The Legacy Action Plan, and other initiatives that have invigorated the city’s efforts to utilize renewable energy for Burlington’s residents and companies. The Climate Action Plan encapsulates 3 main actions.
1. Climate change affecting Vermont – Climate Action Plan has noted that the average temperatures across the Northeast have risen by 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1970. This causes for spring to arrive earlier, summers growing hotter, and winter becoming less snowy. This has a direct effect with Lake Champlain, and surrounding lakes. Noting that the temperature across Vermont is projected to potentially rise above historic levels, Vermont has taken great initiative to address global warming and climate change at the state level, in the hopes that it inspires other cities in the United States to aggressively pursue renewable energy.
2. An increase in winter precipitation raises the chance of flooding. The Northeast region has had an increase in winter precipitation. And since a warmer weather prevents snow, this precipitation falls in the form of rain. The ongoing rain causes intense rainfall, with 2011 being a particular year that has seen widespread flooding across the region. If climate change isn’t addressed, the frequency and severity of flooding will only increase.
3. Burlington isn’t Done. Now that the city runs on renewable energy, it has its sights on reducing community-wide vehicles miles traveled by 10 percent per capita by 2025. Burlington will improve bike trails, pedestrian infrastructures, and integrate different transportation systems to improve efficiency and flow. 51 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from vehicles. Burlington is investing in high-quality transportation systems and a robust transit network to help support those who want to bike or car share.
The Burlington Sustainability Partnership and the University of Vermont have a strong collaboration that spans many areas of the school and daily operations. The mission of this partnership program is to foster sustainability and promote environmental responsibility of University and surrounding communities. It’s a program that bridges students, academics, research, teachers, and community to make Burlington a more sustainable city across all sectors and neighborhoods.
Vermont, fittingly known as “The Green Mountain State”, most certainly embodies the promise of a more sustainable future for all states. The city of Burlington is a perfect case study for other small to midsize cities moving towards a more efficient, and renewable means of energy.
Though it may be some time before we see one of our major cities moving to total energy independence, Burlington offers us a great example of what can happen when a population rallies behind one of the most important issues facing our planet.