Can A City Run On 100% Renewable Energy?

The Good Stuff
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In 2014 Burlington, Vermont became the first city in the United States to run on 100% Renewable Energy. But how do they actually do it? What’s their secret?
Thanks to Miguel Franco for helping to make this episode possible
Special Thanks To:
Neile Lunderville, Miro Weinberger, Mike Kanarick, Dave MacDonnell, Jon Clark and the Burlington Electric Department

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Published on


Jul 21, 2016

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Comments 1 174
Honora Kelly
Honora Kelly 4 days ago
Yes , *screw* the electric company who forces a poor person to turn their STOVES on for heat and consequently DIE in fires! or literally freeze to death. The electric company that turns off oxygen, CPAPS, and rots the only food in the fridge you'll have for a whole month. The person with c-PTSD feom childhood abuse who can't sleep with the lights off. If the person dies, or is essentially taken to the hospital for any of this (3rd degrees burns, hypoglycemia, CHS, Asthma attacks, panic attacks ) , they should be held CRIMINALLY responsible. Enough already! Now is the time to punish these degenerates who would so callously treat the most vulnerable of us.
john miller
john miller 10 days ago
more oil for me yea!!!!!!!!!!!!!
John Clemens
John Clemens 29 days ago
Max Andersen
Max Andersen Month ago
Good job Burlington!
Heath Barrett
Heath Barrett Month ago
Its not about if its possible... its about if it is economically feasible. Its not.
joshua van gelder
FUSION!!!!! it is like almost here it like why not use sea water we have more than enough (it is hard to fuse btw)
Martin A
Martin A Month ago
They burn then the argument is that trees can be grown back to take the carbon up. Well we can grow trees to take up co2 from gas and. Coal too. A shorter cycle doesn't change the principle.
Martin A
Martin A Month ago
It is no greener than gas or coal
Richard Eric Thompson
The Mayor said more than 100% renewable, what kind of crazy talk is this? There is no such thing as more than 100%.
ecbravo999 Month ago
What a bunch on ignorant people.
Cnn is Fakenews
Cnn is Fakenews Month ago
Climate extremists are a doomsday cult trying to bring about mass death. Where is the plan for growing food for billions of people without fossil fuel?
Never can a city run on 100% renewable energy. And no city in America or anywhere else in the world does. Anyone who states that as fact is spouting or espousing a false lie and fallacy (fabrication). They are full of shit. Their city is on the grid. The sun isn't always shining. The wind isn't always blowing. Renewable energy is the dirtiest and most inefficient in the world. It is not even possible with current technology (probably for another century or more). Their is a bunch of false leftist propaganda being promoted, and ignorant people who don't do their due diligence research, eat it up as "feel good" fact.
Amey24 Xxx
Amey24 Xxx 2 months ago
How is burning the wood chips help the environment ???
Denver Louis
Denver Louis 2 months ago
We got them same parakeets in NY. Yo if Darwin is right, shouldn't animals just adapt or die. Them birds are very smart, they about to be comp for the sparrows and speckled starlings. They're very noisy too, but they don't hang around in the fall. They must fly to Florida or something.
Luis Mediavilla
Luis Mediavilla 2 months ago
consider biomasss renewable...
Greg Hamilton
Greg Hamilton 3 months ago
So how long till they run the forest out of topsoil?
harland fazardo
harland fazardo 3 months ago
Are they connected to a power grid, if so then there not really running on only renewable energy
Killah Priest
Killah Priest 3 months ago
possible... just gotta figure out how to fix the battery problem... theres a lot of ethical shit burning wood its not as green as what people think it is
Geo T
Geo T 3 months ago
It's a complete lie (on a Trumpian scale) to claim that things built and maintained with fossil fuels are "100% renewable." The worst part of it is industrial wind power, the most invasive form of sprawl ever created, and it really doesn't reduce carbon. See these links: google.com/search?tbm=isch&q=wind+farm+mountain google.com/search?tbm=isch&q=wind+farm+ocean www.google.com/search?q=wind+turbines+noise+infrasound www.google.com/search?q=wind+turbines+birds+bats+kill www.google.com/search?q=germany+energiewende+co2+emissions+failure www.google.com/search?q=wind+energy+backlash www.google.com/search?q=cubic+mile+of+oil
Henri Sakakini
Henri Sakakini 3 months ago
Learn how to use clean solar alternative power www.astro-vision-avenir.com/index_Eng.html
Carlos Ortiz
Carlos Ortiz 3 months ago
Where do the woodchips from the train come from?
Elijah Thompson
Elijah Thompson 4 months ago
What about bamboo
Siddha 5 months ago
why they dont do that for the entire usa , instead of investing huge sums of money in weapons and wars and army usa can invest a small amount of war money in clean green energy
CAG Hotshot
CAG Hotshot 5 months ago
This video makes me laugh... This is no different than burning coal... Same CO2 output... No reductions. Yet all the Millennials are eating it up... Burning biomass needs scrubbers just like coal or oil.. Burning natural gas is actually cleaner than biomass... and there is enough natural gas to power the US for 400 years... Also if the wind dies out or cloudy days come they have to buy the same power... Essentially this is pretty much the same as any other power company, but a bit dirtier due to the wood chip burning...
đeri662 5 months ago
Burning excess biomass is basically carbon-neutral - it absorbs carbon from the air during growth, carbon is emitted back into the atmosphere while burning in the form of CO2. It needs scrubbers to remove PM, it doesn't produce emissions like SO2, NOX like coal and oil do. Burning natural gas can be very clean, but it's not carbon neutral (it actually is but it takes millions of years). If we won't have a massive breakthrough in energy storage, wind and solar will produce only up to maybe 25 % of world's electricity. There is a lot of hydroelectric potential in Asia, Africa, South America, which is unused. There is a lot of potential in geothermal in some places, where it's cost-effective. And the one source of electricity that could be the most promising for the near future, nuclear. If we make the right decisions, we could have low CO2 emissions, cheap and clean electricity and at the same time stable power grids and reliable electricity supply like we do today in most developed places.
david scott
david scott 5 months ago
so you can harvest trees to power your home, but you cannot harvest trees to build you home. what is the CO2 footprint for producing wood chips as opposed the CO2 footprint for producing naturau gas?
Safir 5 months ago
In my opinion we should genetically engineer a tree that grows extremely quickly. That could reduce the amount of space people need the trees to grow in.
Mark Heslep
Mark Heslep 5 months ago
It "felt nice"? Does this PBS idiot also review medical technology, maybe brain surgery.
Mark Heslep
Mark Heslep 5 months ago
Of course, dozens of entire countries run on RE in the form hydro electric power. Intermittent power like solar and wind does not run anything 100%. Burning up trees doesnt scale nor should it given the traditional emissions like particulates and NOx (a lot more per unit than coal).
sleeplesseye 5 months ago
Their secret is that they falsely claim that burning trees is green, because trees grow back. The American Lung Assoc. said that such plants create about 50% more pollution and CO2 than coal plants, and that none of the plants in question have any kind of requirement or plan for making sure that the trees that are chipped and burned by the plants are actually regrown. It is literally like burning down the Amazon and calling it green, because trees grow back... albeit much later, and only if the trees are allowed to regrow.
SWOBIZ 6 months ago
Not one mention of cost, except for the unquestioned assertion that government conservation subsidies are cheaper than buying grid power. At least they do admit that fluctuating renewable output must be backed up by reliable grid power. Otherwise, there would be brown outs and black outs in Burlington.
jessie mayfield
jessie mayfield 6 months ago
This place is cool af, and I love cities like this
red fish head
red fish head 5 months ago
jessie mayfield same!
David Herrera
David Herrera 6 months ago
Costa Rica has been living with renewable energy for more than a year.
Adventures with Frodo
It is not very green it is releasing a lot of CO2. Twin Falls ID has been existed with renewable resource for more then 50yrs. Burlington suxs.
BIKRAM PATRA 7 months ago
Solar & wind energy is green,clean energy
DMP Me 7 months ago
" New Trees absorb more carbon than old trees "
Curt D
Curt D 7 months ago
I thought hydro was no longer considered renewable?
ano T
ano T 7 months ago
One nuke plant could power almost the entire state
ano T
ano T 7 months ago
A city that can never grow because you don't have enough power. Chicago over a million people. What are these people doing to the fish with that hydro power?
neil kaushik
neil kaushik 7 months ago
Chris Malan
Chris Malan 7 months ago
According to Wikipedia Burlington only has about 43,000 people - a reasonably sized town, not a city. Try this with a population of 1million.
Keluarga Surya
Keluarga Surya 7 months ago
Incredible city
djbmw1 8 months ago
Hydro has powered towns and cities for hundreds of years. The problem is when you say "100%" because you're then talking about the generators, steel framed buildings, copper wires to run electricity, etc.
Bob Bresnahan
Bob Bresnahan 8 months ago
This story is why I stopped talking about "renewable" energy. The reason is that carbon emissions are what we should be limiting, It's a case of being 100% renewable accurately getting in the way of eliminating carbon emissions from electricity. Remember, as we transition to EVs we'll have greater demand for electrical power plants. We'll see how much it plays out to, but it could be a lot.
LORDE 2729
LORDE 2729 8 months ago
i think with the tesla solar tiles those houses can make use of their roof spaces more efficiently and with the extra solar panel will be more then enough for a family unit of 4. i think only on peak summer and winter times they will only need to draw power from the grid cuz of AC and heaters . but i think AC and heaters are also getting more efficient
G G 8 months ago
New trees don’t absorb more carbon than older trees. New *forests* do, but that benefit is lost from selective cutting.
Tony Chalmers
Tony Chalmers 8 months ago
Why can't they reuse the gas and waste that comes out.
Eduardo Gouvea
Eduardo Gouvea 8 months ago
If i get it right they are self sufficient, for me it is also a pro.
Daniel Ly
Daniel Ly 8 months ago
I don’t know if burning wood chips counts as green energy.
red fish head
red fish head 5 months ago
Same but I’m just saying it’s better than everything else
đeri662 8 months ago
Why not? It's renewable if you don't overuse it, it is carbon neutral and all you need is a PM filter.
Tom Kelly
Tom Kelly 8 months ago
I would love to see Stan Meyers technology or the stuff that powers UFO's or Searl Effect generators to power the world. The internal combustion engine needs to be replaced and it looks like batteries will do it but still I want to see some real sci-fi energy production to come online. I am ready to kick the oil habit and the constant need for fuel or more energy. The bonds between atoms obviously hold massive amounts of power and when they are split we get nuclear bombs but short of that there must be a far less violent way to tap into that unlimited source of energy. Nuclear energy is fine but I don't know I am still convinced that by toying with radio frequencies, sound or magnetic energy we could hit that zero point jackpot and unleash tremendous amounts of safe, peaceful energy that can last very close to forever. For now though I am happy with my solar panels and batteries, off grid here in Canada
Tom Kelly
Tom Kelly 8 months ago
Northeastern USA including Vermont is powered by hydro dams in northern Quebec. That is where your power is being bought from. The whole province of Quebec is carbon free as is most of Canada. Hydro is king here with Nuclear picking up the remainder. Wind and solar are starting to come on line too. One city? That is cute but you gotta go way bigger then that! Vermont is a little state, why not power the whole state? I mean Quebec can do it for you really. They have some of the biggest hydro facilities in the world. Check it out. Large Nuclear and coal power plants look like childs' play compared to Quebec dams.
Tom Kelly
Tom Kelly 8 months ago
When it comes to ash, I just want to point out that when they study the regrowth in a clear cut forest vs the regrowth in an area that was burned by forest fire, the place that was burnt has 10x the regrowth. So please if you burn wood on a large or small scale, bring that ash back to help the forests grow 10x better. It is a very simple task and it makes a huge difference!
TrinidadLink Live Repairs
He is FULL of BS .. He jsut want to stay n business .... Cutting trees to burn them because they grow back does nothing for increasing demand .... and carbon emissions already causing the 1 degree and we're on the way to 1.5 to lead to global flooding ..... no nuclear ... jsut solar .. we use too much electricity and want to grow with stupid demands from general public who contribute nothing to the world ... jsut consume ... entertain and continue being stupid ..... Too much waste of human resource .. We need a population decrease .... carry on ..
lil abi
lil abi 8 months ago
There is nothing sustainable about biomass energy. It requires chopping down entire forests and then replacing those forests with monocultures of pine trees where there was once biodiversity. The science does not show that planting more trees counteracts the green house gases being burned. That's a completely made up statistic.
đeri662 8 months ago
Do you have credible sources for these statements?
flipmane 8 months ago
Interviewer- "What do you like about the city?" Mayor- "Oh man you know, it's a great city." Nice.
TrueNerd 9 months ago
Ummm why not use coal and keep planting the same number of trees they are planting right now? The coal doesn't kill the existing trees!!!
Joseph Brendel
Joseph Brendel 9 months ago
keshlalish 9 months ago
sure, drop a dozen or more panel on every building and plug them to the grid, that will do the trick
đeri662 8 months ago
@keshlalish Your're right but doing this would be extremely expensive. Having a mix of clean power plants together with other grid stability measures like demand-side management is a lot better idea.
keshlalish 8 months ago
@đeri662 unless you regulate the amount of power you send when it is needed. if no power is needed panel turn off. add some powerwall to the houses and you would have an enormous amount of energy. every building could run ac and heat when needed, there could be more street lights, you could even put out charging station for e-cars. but it's an utopic idea
đeri662 8 months ago
That would only cause blackout over the entire area of the power grid. Too much electricity in the grid is even worse than not enough electricity.
Jez 9 months ago
I stopped watching when I saw that a big part of their electricity came from burning wood chips.. LOL. what a joke. "renewables". How about people stop lying to themselves and just be honest.
đeri662 8 months ago
If there is still a forest increment (more biomass is produced than consumed), then biomass is a renewable source.
Ahman Millener
Ahman Millener 9 months ago
If you look at the power companies today and from the past, this is everything they despise. Low cost power and efficiency. People like what they can get for less and eco friendly has proven it works even with upkeep.
Moonette Wolfsong
Moonette Wolfsong 9 months ago
The wood made me second guess things but I really like how they explained and talked about that in this video. Basically they are the guinea pig’s right now (as mentioned in another comment) and the renewable technology is still just beginning to kick off. So for me I see this city dropping the dependence on wood over the years as renewables get better. It’s a bit like other places that burn rubbish for energy short term but are also looking for alternative more renewable options. So I think the point here is to do the best you can do with what you have and learn from it so you can do better. As well as help guide others seeking to follow them to do better via shared experience, in this case. Great video, really informative and I really enjoyed it. :)
Alexander Kale
Alexander Kale 9 months ago
1 percent solar. Even among renewables, Solar power is the ugly little duckling....
BBarnes 9 months ago
thorium reactors. Look it up and do an story on it. Its where we need to be as a nation.
CollegeTalkTV 9 months ago
All for renewable energy and making the world a cleaner place. But dam Vermont's largest city only has 40,000 people. In Ohio that's like a suburb.
Baggie195 LGN_
Baggie195 LGN_ 9 months ago
Why is this even a question, the answer is obviously YES
Luigi 9 months ago
Bruciare biomasse, come ogni altra cosa inquina! Se è la tua maggiore fonte green, non sei green. Imparate dall'Europa. 🇪🇺
Spooferish 9 months ago
Not convinced, still biomass produces carbon, so I won't say it's green.
đeri662 8 months ago
It is said to be carbon neutral because the same amount of carbon is releases when burning as it is taken from the atmosphere when the tree is growing. If it wasn't burned, some of the carbon would turn into CH₄ (with decomposition), which has a a lot higher warming effect than CO₂, but some of the carbon would be burried into the ground. I don't know the actual numbers of what would be worse but I suspect the warming effect would be similar.
Michael 9 months ago
unfortunately, biomass is only available for certain cities you couldn't do it in places like nevada and solar just wont cute at least not without government subsidies and wont generate enough power also in terms of long term I don't think it can be sustainable
Anup 9 months ago
Fake news. There is a cost associated with transporting the wood chips to the plant and the ash . Typical left liberal democrat bs. What we need is bigger nuclear plants.
sam guapo
sam guapo 9 months ago
It's 2018. Solar alone with batteries can handle the entire city. The justification of the guy on how they offset pollution is kinda weak but they are doing a much better job than the rest of the USA.
đeri662 8 months ago
What about in the winter, when solar production goes down multiple times? You would need to have multiple times oversized solar systems.
tomarew 9 months ago
Burnie Sanders
mmr Blmbngn
mmr Blmbngn 9 months ago
I see many old guys here and fossil fuel fanboys who lived in a time where they're killing the future of they're children and grandchildren, with so many arguments about renewable energy's underdeveloped technologies short term drawbacks. If only more research and money is put on by your war mongering government then it would be very possible that renewable energy will be efficient and economically viable in a short span of time. No offense grannies but your fossil fuel generation is up, you might as well just rest in peaces.
softminimal1 9 months ago
Burning wood is not green.
đeri662 8 months ago
Why not? It is carbon neutral and if you have the correct filters attached to clean flue gas, you basically don't have any PM emissions.
Jeffrey Black
Jeffrey Black 9 months ago
Also, biomass is effectively just indirect solar. Has anyone done the math on how much power you would get if you just wiped out the forest and put a solar power plant there instead?
Jeffrey Black
Jeffrey Black 9 months ago
Power doesn't magically scale like that. You can't have every block be its own grid. Basically the only power you can do that with is solar. For hydro you would need each block to have a waterfall. For wind you have the downwind blocks get less and less power until they have basically none. For biomass each one needs its own forest. So solar would be the only option for that. If you ignore the fact that Chicago isn't on the equator, then the sunlight reaching the surface has an flux of roughly 1 kW /m^2. However, not all of that is usable with solar power. A large portion is too low in energy, and some is too high in energy to be used efficiently. If you be generous and say the solar cell gets 20% of the power, that is down to 200 W/m^2. If you consider the height of their buildings and how many people live/work in them, that is nowhere near enough; especially when you remember that it isn't always mid-day and they aren't on the equator, meaning over the course of a day that power will vary from significantly less than 200 W/m^2 all the way down to 0. For any large city the only solution for renewable energy is to have large centralised systems which distribute power to large areas.
Jeffrey Black
Jeffrey Black 9 months ago
Some more math: From some sources, Chicago government buildings used 1.8 billion kWhr of electricity in 2016, which accounted for roughly 8% of electricity in Chicago. Meaning Chicago as a whole used 22.5 billion kWhr. Given that there are 8784 hours in a year, that works out to be a rate of roughly 2.5 million kW. So with an area of roughly 600 km^2, a flux of 200 W/m^2 would give a total power output of 120 million kW. However, that would only be if it was always midday at the equator on the equinox (or midday on the tropic at summer). Averaging over a day at the equator on the equinox, you end up with a demand of 60 GW hr. You have a supply of ~900 GWhr, or 15 times as much. However that reduces significantly when you move away from the equator, and consider summer and winter. So at a peak it would generate less than that. That would make it quite difficult to actually meet the power requirements, and ignores that if you did cover the city like that, you no longer have any light to grow any plants or provide light for walking around during the day and need to replace that. That also completely ignores the fuel used to run cars and the like.
Santtu12 9 months ago
Burlington's mayor sounds a bit like Ben Shapiro.
Bora STAN 9 months ago
Absolutely amazing system! Maybe dropping woods and go for rooftop PV system with battery should be the next step. 👍
đeri662 8 months ago
@Bora STAN It really isn't exaggerated, I looked at the actual numbers of solar production for my country (Slovenia) and it's 4 times lower in the winter. Wood burning is actually clean if you have the correct filters. It is carbon neutral and with almost no harmfull emissions (PM is the worst thing in flue gas from biomass burning but this can be managed quite easily). The difference from coal is that coal isn't carbon neutral or renewable and there are other harmfull emissions like SO2 or NOx which are harder to filter out. In my opinion the best solution is this: Hydroelectricity where it's possible, geothermal where it's cost effective, biomass where there is an increment of forest, a little bit of wind and solar, nuclear to fill the gap between production and consumption. Just like you would need energy storage to go off grid, the same problem is in the power grid, consumption and production must be equal every second. The good thing is that we can regulate output power from classical power plants like coal, gas, hydro or nuclear and mitigate this problem without energy storage. When there is more and more solar&wind implementation and classical power plants closures, the regulating power need is higher and higher but the actual regulating power that can be provided is lower and lower. That's where energy storage comes into the picture but this would be very expensive to do on a power grid scale.
Bora STAN 8 months ago
@đeri662 you are right about the cost. Winter PV efficiency part is kind of exaggerated. Anyway, the concept is being clean, and burning wood doesn't look clean to me. If you can deal with the exhaust, why don't go with coal, right? And I'm guessing that the exhaust processing costs some as well. However, I agree with you on one matter: solar may not be the best solution, there must be other clean solutions can be considered such as wind, geothermal and etc. Storage has to be considered if a system wanna go 100% off-grid. Only my personal idea :)
đeri662 8 months ago
@Bora STAN Any solar panel that has over 25 % efficiency is very expensive (even 20 % is quite expensive). In either case you have to oversize solar panels production for the winter. Solar production in the winter can be 5 times lower than in the summer. What to do with 400 % overproduction in the summer then? What about when there is let's say a week or two of cloudy weather (production from solar panels can be only around 10-15 % then)? A system containing only solar panels would need a lot of energy storage and massively oversized solar production to have enough electricity 365/24/7. Nobody would pay the money needed to do that. There are smarter ways to have clean electricity, which is also cheap and doesn't have to be oversized a lot.
Bora STAN 8 months ago
@đeri662 high eff pv might be enough. Of course, need to do the math.
đeri662 8 months ago
What about in the winter? Start up biomass power plants again?
Matthew Holevinski
Matthew Holevinski 9 months ago
So... You could put in 1 itty bitty teeny tiny nuclear reactor, power the whole city for a zillion years, and not have to mass produce any windmills, toxic solar panels, collect transport and burn stuff and all of your power would come from essentially rock also no fish elevation required. well done
Kni 9 months ago
Nuclear is the future. We just need to use more of the same fuel for longer.
SirChickon 9 months ago
Hey Murica, it seems not everything is going down over in your country!
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