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

VPIRG Director: The Truth about Where Vermonters Stand on Wind

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Paul Burns, who is the executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. Re-posted from Vermont Digger NOV. 17, 2013 About a month ago, the Los Angeles Times newspaper announced that it would no longer publish letters to the editor that suggest that there is no sign that humans have caused ...

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VPIRG Director Speaks at Wind Ribbon-Cutting

VPIRG Director Speaks at Wind Ribbon-Cutting

The grand opening of Vermont’s newest wind farm, Georgia Mountain Community Wind, was celebrated by VPIRG director, Paul Burns, and a number of volunteer, interns, and staff.  The project consists of four 2.5 MW turbines in Milton and Georgia and all power has been purchased by Burlington Electric Department.  When operating at peak capacity, the ...

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S.30 – Anti-Renewable Energy Provisions Defeated

S.30 – Anti-Renewable Energy Provisions Defeated

In one of the key votes of the legislative session, senators voted 16-14 to strip the most offensive provisions out of the anti-renewable energy bill – S.30. At different points, this legislation would have blocked wind, solar and other renewable energy sources of various sizes. Had it passed as its sponsors intended, it would have represented ...

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Thank You to Senator Sanders and Friends for Joining the VT Energy Choices Forum

Thank You to Senator Sanders and Friends for Joining the VT Energy Choices Forum

Packing an auditorium on the season’s first beautiful Saturday isn’t an easy task.  That is unless you’ve organized five fantastic panelists—including Vermont’s junior U.S. Senator, Bernie Sanders—and spent weeks recruiting the state’s top clean energy activists and their friends. Fortunately, that’s why VPIRG’s event was such a success.  The hundred-plus citizen activists who attended heard riveting ...

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