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Introducing the Orb: Burlington’s newest renewable energy technology

Spherical white wind turbine sits on top of a roof, surrounded by black fence
Joia Putnoi
/
Vermont Public
The Orb, tagged with model number ORB-A-001, is the first of its kind. The technology is located on the roof of the Burlington Airport parking garage.

Burlington will be the first site of a newly developed rooftop wind turbine called the Orb.

The eight-foot-tall sphere-like turbine, located atop the Burlington Airport parking garage, is the result of a partnership announced earlier this week between Burlington Electric Department (BED) and Massachusetts-based ARC Industries.

The technology, which is being deployed for the first time in the Queen City, was designed to be compact and harness wind energy from urban spaces such as the tops of buildings and requires little maintenance.

“What the Orb represents for us is a new commercial-scale technology that can really work on rooftops as opposed to the wind that we think of that's a bigger scale wind turbine,” said Darren Springer, the general manager for BED.

He said the collaboration was made possible through DeltaClimeVT, a business accelerator program that worked with ARC to create this renewable energy pilot project.

The Orb was designed by Robert Monteith and his colleagues at ARC, who have been working on it for more than 10 years.

According to Monteith, the first unit cost roughly $20,000, but the company is hopeful costs will drop to about half that by the end of next year.

The company says the Orb can be deployed in compact spaces, and generates power even in a light breeze.

“We have a lot of flat rooftops in the city that the Orb would fit nicely on, so I could see it being a great complement to rooftop solar,” Springer with BED said. “Having different resources that are renewable, that balance each other is important for our future and for our grid.”

Springer says if the cost structure does come down in the future, the technology may be eligible for federal tax credits.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Mayor Miro Weinberger said that the technology will also help Burlington meet its goal to become a Net Zero Energy City by 2030.

According to ARC, other the course of a year, the Orb can generate 3 kilowatts of power, or enough to power 1.5 residential homes.

“This is a big part of what the Burlington city government is focused on,” Weinberger said. “The way we confront climate change is through fiscally responsible, innovative and aggressive tactics that engage every part of our city government, our diverse business community, renters, homeowners and visitors, including the visitors — hundreds of thousands of visitors who pass through the airport here, every year.”

He says that Burlington is focused on remaining a national leader in climate action.

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