What is wind power, and why is it clean?

For hundreds of years, humans have harnessed wind power for energy—from grinding grain and pumping water, to generating enough electricity to power millions of homes across the United States.

Vermont’s wind resource could provide far more electricity that it does today—for our homes and businesses, as well as for increasingly common and affordable electric heating and transportation options. But our state continues to rely on energy from dirty, dangerous and expensive sources. Generating electricity from burning coal, drilling for natural gas, or relying on leak-prone nuclear plants pollutes the air and water, and contributes to the carbon pollution that’s destabilizing our climate here in Vermont and around the world.

Learn more about wind power in our in-depth FAQ.

Wind power is clean because wind turbines don’t produce heat-trapping greenhouse gasses, or other air pollution, during their operation. It takes a tiny fraction of the water to produce wind power that it takes to produce power from coal, gas, or nuclear plants, leaving more water for other purposes.  And unlike fossil fuels and nuclear power, wind power doesn’t leak, spill, or threaten human health.

In fact, it takes a wind turbine just five to eight months of operation to produce the same amount of energy that goes into its manufacture, its installation, its operation, its maintenance, and its eventual decommissioning. That means over the course of its lifetime a wind turbine delivers up to 80 times more energy than is used in its production, maintenance and retirementWind energy is among the lowest ‘lifecycle emissions’ of all energy production technologies.

What state plans exist to guide Vermont’s transition to a clean energy future?

As Vermonters, we take pride in our reputation as environmental leaders. That includes the state’s ambitious vision for our clean energy future. After many months of work and a tremendous amount of public input, in 2011 the state adopted a plan calling for 90% of our energy needs (electricity, heating and transportation) to be met with renewable resources by 2050. This plan was updated in 2016, and will be revisited every 6 years going forward.

Did you know?

Clean, local, renewable wind power first sustainably powered Vermont homes in 1941.
The first megawatt-size (1.25 MW) turbine in the world was installed and connected to the electric grid in Castleton, Vermont in 1941. The Castleton windmill remained the world’s largest until the serial production on wind turbines began in Holland in 1979.

American wind power has already made a significant impact on global warming pollution.
In their 2015 report, “Turning to the Wind,” Environment America found that, “Since 2001, wind power in the United States has displaced more than 764 million metric tons of carbon dioxide – more than a year’s worth of CO2 emissions from the entire country of Canada.” In addition, “In 2014 alone, wind-generated electricity averted an estimated 143 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions – as much as would be produced by 37 typical coal-fired power plants.”

Learn more: check out our FAQ to dive deeper into wind power in Vermont. 

Recent Wind Energy News

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A Tale of Two Vermonts

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Vermont wind progress has all but stopped

Wind energy is off the table in Vermont, thanks to the Scott Administration. The rules regarding sound from wind turbines, which Governor Scott supported, were the latest roadblock for wind energy in Vermont. Prior to that rule, there were just three projects under consideration in Vermont. Today, there is just one – a single turbine ...

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Wind Sound Rules Approved by LCAR

On Thursday, the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR) voted 5-2 to approve the rules governing wind sound as proposed by the Public Utility Commission (PUC), imposing a sound restriction of 39 decibels at night and 42 during the day. This rule will likely make it impossible for any large wind projects to be approved ...

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Update on Wind Sound Proceeding

In May 2017, the Public Service Board issued a final proposed rule on sound from wind turbines. Unfortunately, they chose to ignore the clear evidence and issue a rule that, if approved, will functionally take wind off the table as a viable resource here in Vermont. VPIRG has been involved in this proceeding since its start ...

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Update on Wind Sound Standard

As the 2016 energy siting and planning bill was going through the final steps at the legislature last spring, the issue of setting statewide limits for sound from wind projects became a hot topic. Historically these limits had been set for each project individually. The bill, in its final form, tasked the Public Service Board ...

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New Wind Energy FAQ

We talk to Vermonters nearly every day about clean energy — so we know that people have a lot of questions when it comes to renewables. So, VPIRG is taking the most common questions we’ve heard and putting all the answers in one place — and we’re starting with wind power. We’ve answered questions like: Is wind power going to ...

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