In Burlington the energy produced is entirely renewable

In Burlington the energy produced is entirely renewable

There are at least twenty-seven Burlingtons in the United States, plus one Burlington City, and four other so-called places in Canada. But none are like Burlington in Vermont: here i 44,000 inhabitants receive electricity produced 100% from renewable sources: one third supplied by a hydroelectric plant along the Winooski River, one third by wind and solar plants installed throughout the city and one third by a biomass plant, which recycles waste from wood processing, one of the raw materials on which rests the local economy, together with the production of maple syrup.

The rooftops of the nearby airport, schools and Electric Department buildings are dotted with solar panels. Burlington is not only the largest city in Vermont, on the east coast, it is not only a “green city”, but the model that could inspire the United States to face the ecological transition. President Joe Biden has already launched the green challenge, which involves the installation of five hundred thousand electric charging stations for cars, the development of photovoltaic systems everywhere, the renovation of millions of homes to reduce consumption and lower the price of bills.

The big goal is to make the USA a huge Burlington, where water, wind and recyclable materials represent the new energy gold that moves light, air conditioners, radiators, cars and factories. But the Vermont city didn’t begin the transition yesterday. It is a path born way back in 1978 when the old coal plant was replaced with a power plant capable of producing 50 megawatts.

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Farms decided to rely on alternative energy and since then the green economy has become a model common to all inhabitants. In 2014, citizens approved the purchase of a hydroelectric plant, ratifying an agreement that had been signed two years earlier and considered the decisive step to fully cover local needs with clean energy within a few years. They haven’t stopped since then also because they know that climate change can endanger the two main sources of revenue: tourism and agriculture. This is a place much loved by Americans, located between the Green Mountains and Lake Champlain, a vast expanse of water that divides Vermont from neighboring New York State.

The climatic conditions, as in much of the United States, are extreme and the Winooski River itself, which produces energy, is always at risk of flooding. To understand its impact, it is enough to go back to 2011, the year of hurricane Irene, when water storms damaged many local infrastructures, putting commercial activities and more than sixty homes out of action, a huge number for a medium-small community.

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To make Burlington resistant to the violence of nature, there was only one way: to become a carbon neutral city. Electric recharging stations were built, even before President Biden’s breakthrough, hundreds of trees were planted and a system developed that brings heat from biomass plants to residents’ homes. In Burlington they argue that the improvement of the renewable energy system has ended up improving not only the quality of the air but the rating of Burlington Electric, the local energy company.

“Merit – he explains Darren Springergeneral manager of the company – of the choice made at the time to become independent from fossil fuels, move away from nuclear power and move towards renewable sources”. Not only do they produce for their internal needs, but the excess is sold to the Iso in New England, a regional organization that serves Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont itself Critics argue that renewable sources do not produce large economic benefits, but the data say the opposite: from 2009 to 2021 energy tariffs of Burlington have not recorded increases, while in the rest of the country they have.

“This demonstrates – explained al Washington Post the commissioner of the public service department, Christopher Recchia – that we are able to supply renewable energy in a wide range and that we can do it with competitive costs also in the future”. Currently the Electric Department offers incentives to customers to install heat pumps or buy electric cars, green lawnmowers or electric bikes. The big goal is to reach the goal of “zero emissions” by 2030.

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The system is working to the point that technicians and administrators from other American cities have periodically visited Burlington over the years. Now the green transition to renewable energy is beginning to take hold in Cleveland, Ohio, Fayetteville, Arkansas, Indianapolis, Indiana, along the Mississippi River and in some cities in California. Just go to Burlington to touch the change: from the shops and pubs of a Church Street lit up in the evening as if it were day, Burlington is becoming the best spot for the ecological transition of urban areas and proof that renewable energies have not only a future, but a present. In the United States, many think that the greenest state is New Jersey, but that’s not the case. At least that’s what emerged from a ranking compiled by Forbes, according to which the famous Garden State, which borders New York, is actually only in seventh place.

At the top of the standings, guess what, there is the Vermontfollowed by two West Coast states: Oregon and Washington, not to be confused with the capital, Washington DC, which is located on the East Coast. All three states are characterized by low carbon dioxide emissions and strong policies, as we have seen for Burlington, to favor and incentivize the production of clean energy. They are also among the states with the highest number of buildings that have received the ‘green sticker’ issued by the federal green building agency which rewards design aesthetics associated with environmental impact.

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