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Wind power coming to Burlington?

Burlington’s Renewable Energy Committee wants to investigate whether there is enough wind on the Mississippi riverfront to justify building a wind turbine, which would help power the Port of Burlington and events that take place there.

At its last meeting July 12, the committee unanimously voted to approve approaching the city’s Development and Inspections Department about applying for grants and energy credits to fund placing a weather station on the riverfront that would measure wind speed, volume and direction for one year.

Committee member Keith Jacobs of Burlington said the cost of a weather station likely would be about $5,000, and well worth the price to prove the feasibility of a turbine on the riverfront.

The weather station would be small and unobtrusive, Jacobs said.

If the weather station proves enough wind energy exists to provide for the electrical needs at the port, the committee hopes further grants can be found to fund the construction of a turbine.

Jacobs hopes a turbine would help decrease the amount of electricity the city has to buy and in the long run reduce the tax burden on Burlington property owners.

“The citizens will benefit as a result of it (a turbine),” Jacobs said. “There is a bright future for alternative energy, and we have to push for it. I really believe this will be our future, and we can do it if we believe in ourselves.”

Jacobs acknowledged some residents may object on the basis of aesthetics to a turbine on the riverfront. He believes the benefits of the turbine would outweigh any protests.

Also, alternatives to the traditional wind turbine with a horizontal axis do exist. Turbines with a vertical axis typically have a smaller profile and are more friendly for bats and birds.

Given the environmental and political turmoil caused by America’s ongoing addiction to fossil fuels, it is time for Burlington to take control of its own energy production, Jacobs said.

“We need to ween ourselves off of the dependency of oil,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs and fellow committee member David Hayes plan to make a presentation to city staff sometime within the next week. Any plans or grant applications would have to be approved by the city council.