Solar Unique Solar Initiatives and Models in Burlington, Vermont

Jerry Spivey
9 min readDec 13, 2023
Burlington, Vermont

In the sun-washed terrains of Burlington, Vermont, solar energy is not just catching on; it’s becoming a staple of the city’s identity. Bursting with both cultural vibrancy and eco-consciousness, Burlington stands as a beacon of innovative solar practices. The city, swathed in verdant beauty, has taken to solar not merely as a fad but as a mission, intertwining sustainability with its urban fabric. It’s a canvas where shadows cast by solar panels are as indicative of the place as the leaves that flutter in its crisp, New England air.

Solar In Numbers — Burlington, Vermont

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However, Vermont’s climate poses a mosaic of challenges, from snow-laden panels to shorter daylight hours in winter, pushing Burlington’s solar enthusiasts to unravel inventive solutions. State laws and regulations, such as Vermont’s net metering 2.0 program and the Renewable Energy Standard, offer supportive frameworks for solar adoption, propelling the city into a leadership role in renewable energy integration. The city’s intimate size, juxtaposed with its high-energy needs, creates a thrilling puzzle where blending in solar infrastructure calls for adaptive and creative models, from community solar gardens to smart microgrids, that make Burlington’s solar landscape as intricate and captivating as its storied fall foliage.

Overview of Burlington

Nestled on the shores of Lake Champlain, Burlington, Vermont is a pulsating hub of progressive energy ideologies, with an intimate population size that belies its monumental strides in renewable energy. As Vermont’s largest city, Burlington bursts with a fusion of collegiate vigor and eco-conscious living, creating a fertile ground for solar innovation. The city, hammered by frigid winters and intermittently graced with piercing sunlight, faces a climate paradox that only inflates its solar appetite.

In an audacious feat that snatched headlines, Burlington seared its name in the renewable energy hall of fame by becoming the first city in the United States to source 100% of its electricity from renewables. Vermont’s forward-thinking policies allure solar installers like moths to a flame, with legislation offering net metering and statewide solar incentives that encourage residential and commercial installations — and Burlington fits into this picture like a perfect puzzle piece. Enveloped by a state that banished fracking and bolstered energy efficiency standards, Burlington’s energy landscape flows like a weed-rooted river — constantly churning, ever-evolving. Example: The city’s ambitious plan, the Net Zero Energy Roadmap, envisions a carbon-neutral Burlington by 2030 — a towering testament to its resolve in harnessing the sun’s ceaselessly abundant energy. With each photovoltaic panel mounted, Burlington’s solar panorama becomes an increasingly intricate tapestry of sustainable aspirations and pragmatic actions.

Unique Solar Initiatives

Within the verdant embrace of Burlington, Vermont, a city known for pioneering environmental stewardship, unique solar initiatives are flourishing with an unrivaled vibrancy. For instance, Burlington’s adoption of a “net zero energy” goal, fervently aims to galvanize the city’s entire electric, thermal, and ground transportation systems to run on renewable energy by 2030. This audacious plan is markedly ambitious compared to the more modest targets seen elsewhere. A standout model within this framework is the Burlington Electric Department’s (BED) inclusive financing mechanism, which sidesteps up-front installation costs, thereby catapulting accessibility of solar power to a wider socio-economic demographic.

Moreover, the city’s commitment is mirrored in the innovative collaboration with the local airport, where a 500 kW solar array dances on the rooftops, a dual-use design dedicating to slashing carbon emissions while simultaneously harnessing efficiency by capitalizing on otherwise underutilized spaces. These solar arrays are bolstered by Vermont’s favorable net metering laws, allowing for a symbiotic energy relationship between utility companies and private solar producers. Burlington’s distinct solar endeavors also include an emphasis on storage technology, a crucial yet often underestimated component of renewable integration, reflecting foresight in sustaining green energy even when the sun retreats. Collectively, these radiant initiatives illuminate Burlington’s trailblazing journey, energy independence not merely an aspiration, but a tangible horizon, etching the city’s name in the annals of renewable energy valor.

Policy and Community Involvement

In the luminescent embrace of Burlington, Vermont’s forward-thinking solar initiatives, the city becomes a paragon of urban solar adoption, where rooftops and open spaces alike ripple with the promise of renewable energy. State and federal policies are the sinew and bone of this transformation, each a meticulously crafted catalyst. An exemplar is the Solar Adder offered through the state’s Renewable Energy Standard, which provides an additional financial incentive per kilowatt-hour for net-metered solar systems, propelling the economics of solar installations from appealing to undeniably persuasive. Nestled within the quilt of federal mechanisms, the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) slashes a substantial 26% off the cost of solar systems, easing the financial burden of solar investment and nurturing a robust solar community. The city itself has not been idle; the Burlington Electric Department’s array of rebates for solar installations pumps vigor into the already pulsating city’s solar landscape. But it’s the synergy of Burlington’s inhabitants, those who fervently wield the dual tools of policy and community involvement, that truly galvanizes the city’s solar revolution. Solarize campaigns and energy committees, brimming with impassioned citizens, become the heartbeats of groundwork, sleuthing and knitting the solar narrative deeper into the civic fabric, rendering Burlington not merely a city bathed in sunlight but one that invigorates its power.

Technological Innovations in Burlington

Within the verdant embrace of Burlington, Vermont, solar technology is not just evolving — it’s leaping bounds into a future chiseled by innovation. At the forefront of this revolution, we witness a convergence of local ingenuity and state-backed incentives, propelling the installation of ultra-efficient photovoltaic (PV) cells that boast novel light absorption rates. Burlington, through collaborations with the University of Vermont and innovative tech companies, is becoming a nexus for cutting-edge research. For instance, the deployment of bifacial solar modules, which harness sunlight from both sides, is radically optimizing energy production — even amidst the capricious climes that New England is known for.

Elevating this surge, the state’s progressive net-metering laws bolster the investment allure in transcendent technologies, like solar storage systems that incorporate machine-learning algorithms to predict energy needs and optimize battery usage. These smart systems interface seamlessly with the municipally-owned utility, which endeavors to source 100% of its power from renewable sources, illuminating the potential for a self-sustaining energy ecosystem that cities nationwide could mirror. Furthermore, local solar installers are experimenting with solar skins, customizable aesthetic overlays that integrate with PV panels, allowing for a harmonious blend with Burlington’s historical and natural landscapes. This techno-cultural synergy propels not just energy independence but also a bespoke visual congruence that taps into the essence of Vermont’s environmental ethos.

Economic and Environmental Impact

In the vibrant city of Burlington, Vermont, the shimmering panels capturing sunlight aren’t just sleek accessories atop roofs, they’re economic catalysts and environmental lifelines. With the state’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES), which mandates that 75% of power come from renewable sources by 2032, Burlington has already surged forward, becoming the first city in the nation to run on 100% renewable energy. This monumental shift is more than a badge of honor; it’s a serious economic engine, slashing utility bills and encouraging local job creation in the clean energy sector, a sector blooming like algae in Lake Champlain’s sun-drenched waters.

Moreover, the environmental dividends are bountiful. By transitioning to solar, Burlington has significantly reduced its carbon footprint. This action dovetails with Vermont’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 26% below 2005 levels by 2025. The city’s initiative not only aligns with statewide objectives but also trickles down to palpable air quality improvements. The environmental cascade extends further, fostering a heightened collective consciousness of sustainability among its residents, who are now attuned to the ecological symphony of their locale — nurturing a verdant cityscape that champions green spaces and celebrates the synthesis of urban life with untamed nature. The clean energy trajectory adopted by Burlington refracts beyond pragmatic economics, illuminating a path where the green of currency and the green of chlorophyll converge in a spectacular sustainability dance.

Challenges and Solutions

In Burlington, Vermont, solar installers face the multifaceted challenge of infrequent sunshine during long winters and legislative tapestries that can snare unwary installers in a web of compliance issues. Vermont’s Renewable Energy Standard has ramped up requirements, necessitating utilities to procure a portion of their energy from renewables, and while this underpins install opportunities, it creates a pressure cooker for installers to navigate complex net-metering rules which, despite offering financial incentives, require adept mastery to maximize returns.

One significant hurdle is the snow load on panels, which can be mitigated by installing solar panels at steeper angles, ensuring they shed snow more effectively, thereby maintaining efficiency in the face of winter’s white blanket. Another is the tree-lined beauty of Burlington’s landscapes, which often necessitates strategic placement and sometimes even tree trimming to harvest the sun’s power effectively.

Crafting community solar arrays has become a strategic response, allowing those with shaded property to buy into off-site solar gardens. These shared initiatives are buoyed by local and state tax incentives, thus leveraging economies of scale and sidestepping individual residential limitations.

Technological advancements have ushered in high-efficiency photovoltaic cells, which are a panacea in locales where sunlight is at a premium, ensuring even the filtered light of Vermont’s cloudy days is converted into clean, usable energy. With Burlington’s goal to become a net-zero energy city, innovation and adaptation are the solar industry’s watchwords here, embodying a steadfast commitment to environmental stewardship and economic acumen.

Future Prospects

Burlington, Vermont, a city already distinguished by its renewable energy achievements, is set to become an even more vibrant node in the solar constellation. Vermont’s net metering policies, which allow solar generators to receive credit for the electricity they add to the grid, continue to encourage residential and commercial installations. With the state’s Renewable Energy Standard, which pushes for 75% renewable energy by 2032, Burlington is primed for expansion in solar capacity. The city’s quest to become a net-zero energy municipality ignites an electrifying forecast for solar endeavors.

A pivotal development is the proposed city-wide microgrid that integrates solar with storage technology. This is not just a trend; it’s the next evolution of the grid, mingled with climate resilience. Such an ambitious project predicts a surge in local job creation, stimulating Burlington’s green economy. Throw into the mix the Vermont Climate Action Plan which demands significant carbon reductions, further enhancing the proliferation of solar installations.

Industry whispers suggest a surge of innovation as experts speculate on the emergence of solar canopies in parking lots and solar-powered EV charging stations, reflecting the city’s progressive transportation policies. Burlington’s example amplifies a resonant message: small cities can wield solar power mightily, steadily redefining the energy landscape as they pivot headlong into a sunlit future.


In Burlington, Vermont, the zealous march towards a sustainable future is propelled by cutting-edge innovation, making it a radiant beacon for solar energy adoption. Innovative endeavors, such as the city’s pioneering microgrid projects and utility-scale solar parks, harmoniously meld with Vermont’s net metering policies, allowing excess solar energy to flow back to the grid, lucratively benefiting the consumer’s energy bills. Such policies not only kindle economic incentivization but also sculpt a replicable model for clean energy transitions. Additionally, embracing the chill of the Green Mountain State’s climate, Burlington’s advancements in solar technology spotlight the use of bifacial solar panels, which can harvest the albedo effect of snow to enhance energy capture — a sparkling example of how climate-specific innovation can pivot perceived challenges into energy-generating assets. The city’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions streaks ahead, with the integration of battery storage systems ensuring a consistent and reliable supply of solar power, which is critical in the sun-scarce winter months. Burlington’s spirited dedication to out-of-the-box solar solutions undeniably extends an open invitation to other cities to funnel their unique landscapes and regulatory frameworks into the development of tailored and impactful solar energy deployments.

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Jerry Spivey

As an aspiring writer, I love words and pay attention to detail. My skill and devotion to writing intriguing and relevant material set me apart.