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Burlington Plans to Buy Winooski Hydroplant

This Town Meeting Day, voters will decide if the city should buy the Winooski Hydroplant. It would cost a bond of up to $12 million.
This Town Meeting Day, voteers will decide if Burlington can buy the Winooski One Hydroplant.  It comes at a steep price.  The city will pay for it with a bond worth $12 million.  The plant provides renewable energy, which is eight percent of Burlington's total energy consumption.  Nearly 20,000 households and businesses, including Fletcher Allen and University of Vermont, pay for hydroelectric power. 

"This allows burlington electric to meet some of it's ambitious renewable energy goals," says Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger.  "I think that's something Burlingtonians very much support."

Currently, Burlington has the benefits of the plant's physical energy, but none of its financial gains.  Winooski One Partners, a private company, owns the plant and sells its financial benefits to ISO New England.  This would change if Burlington Electric Department owned the plant.

"The fact that it is hydro-power, it's renewable, and it has that stable price is really what we're looking for when we evaluated the plant," says Burlington Electric's Ken Nolan.

Nolan says over 45 years, the benefits of the energy would create between $20 million $30 million.  Burlington would get that money.  Also, Burlington Electric says a plant like Winooski's could last for a century.

"This is a multi-generational asset, "says Scott Moody, a chairmen on Burlington Electric's volunteer advisory board.  "This will be around for a very long time and will serve Burlington's needs for quite a long time."

If the purchase is made, Mayor Weinberger says hydroelectric pay rates and property taxes will not be affected.

"This is an opportunity for us to live our values as a city, wanting to support renewable energy and to do so in a way that isn't going to take more money out of people's wallets," says Weinberger.  "It's likely to save money in the long run."

If voters do not approve the plan, known as ballot number four, Mayor Weinberger says there likely will not be another opportunity to buy the plant in the future.


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