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

Is Ethan Allen Institute Trying To Hide Its Climate Denying History?

Is Ethan Allen Institute Trying To Hide Its Climate Denying History?

The “Vermont Legislator Roll Call Profiles” published by the Ethan Allen Institute on Tuesday had at least one notable omission: the 25-5 roll call vote on Senate Resolution 7 recognizing climate change science. This omission leads us to ask, “What’s EAI afraid of?” The Ethan Allen Institute has a documented history of denying climate change and ...

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Governor Signs Renewable Energy Standard Into Law

Governor Signs Renewable Energy Standard Into Law

Gov. Peter Shumlin signed H.40 – the Renewable Energy Standard (RES) bill – into law today at signing ceremony in Montpelier. This law brings Vermont in line with 29 other states by requiring that electric utilities get a certain percentage of their energy from clean, renewable sources. The Renewable Energy Standard is projected to save Vermonters nearly ...

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Energy Program Update

Energy Program Update

There are two months left in the 2015 legislative session and VPIRG has been working diligently this year on a number of big energy issues. Here is a short update of where those issues stand: The carbon pollution tax: Since January, we’ve been working to build support with legislators, educate interested Vermonters and line up testimony. ...

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House Overwhelmingly Approves Renewable Energy Bill

House Overwhelmingly Approves Renewable Energy Bill

This afternoon, the Vermont House voted overwhelmingly to approve The Renewable Energy Standard and Energy Transformation Program (H.40). H.40 is a critical piece of legislation that would put Vermont in line 29 other states, including every state in the New England region, in requiring electric utilities to provide customers with renewable power. RESET requires a total ...

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News Release: Environmental Advocates, Businesses and Low-Income Groups Launch Campaign for an Energy Independent Vermont

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BARRE, VT— Vermont could dramatically reduce its climate pollution while improving the state’s economy and growing jobs, according to a new economic study released today by a diverse coalition of environmental, business and low-income groups. The benefits would be achieved by putting a price on carbon pollution and returning the revenue to Vermont citizens, businesses ...

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VPIRG Supports Clean Energy, Opposes S.201

VPIRG Supports Clean Energy, Opposes S.201

Despite overwhelming public support for renewable energy like wind and solar, opponents are now attempting to put up barriers to clean energy development in the state. VPIRG opposes a bill (S.201) that would make it significantly harder for Vermont to transition to a clean energy future and meet the goals laid out in our state’s ...

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VPIRG’s Dylan Zwicky: Wind is Part of the Solution

Comment and Debate: Wind is benign, renewable alternative Reprinted from The Burlington Free Press Nov. 25, 2013 10:06 PM Dylan Zwicky of Burlington is a clean energy associate for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. As long as we continue to use energy, Vermonters should expect some debate over where that energy comes from. The current public dialogue concerning ...

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