If ice is thrown from blades on two wind turbines David Blittersdorf hopes to build on Kidder Hill, he’ll be the first to know.
Blittersdorf cabin is the closest structure to the 499-foot towers he hopes to build there.
The owner of AllEarth Renewables and a leader in renewable energy projects in Vermont said he wants to build the project on Kidder Hill because it is a good site. It has access to roads and powerlines, and Green Mountain Power already planned the transportation route during its Lowell wind project.
Plus, he said, the low elevation – at 1,750 feet – will mean much fewer issues with icing of blades, one of the concerns raised by opponents at Monday night’s select board meeting, where Blittersdorf was not permitted to speak most of the time.
But closer to Blittersdorf’s heart is the impact that renewable energy developments will have on the Earth.
These kinds of projects, once built, can run forever with new parts and no fuel, Blittersdorf said. They help stabilize long-term energy needs and provide the best long-term prices for energy.
With petroleum-based generation sources, customers are at the whim of the Middle East, he said. And someday in the near future, Blittersdorf sees this country going the way of other places – like Sweden and British Columbia – where hefty taxes are levied against those who pollute the environment with carbon emissions.
“We will hurt our own economy if we don’t take care of energy in a clean way,” he said. “We will be at a disadvantage is we don’t move to renewables.”
Blittersdorf was accused of going about this process in an underhanded and sneaky way, but Blittersdorf says he’s given the select board more notice than is required. The select board was given materials a month ago, and Blittersdorf tried to attend a meeting two weeks ago. There was no quorum that night, and the meeting was canceled, but he spoke with Selectman Brian Sanville and assistant town clerk Priscilla Stebenne. Blittersdorf was unaware that the board held a make-up meeting August 3.
About 20 people attended a gathering at Blittersdorf’s cabin, where he said about half were against the project and half either for it or at least open-minded about it.
Blittersdorf said any other delay was simply him trying to get his data in line so he had plenty of information before moving into the permitting stage.
Benefits to Irasburg
Irasburg would likely receive about $40,000 a year in tax credits, Blittersdorf said, basing that on the same size projects in Georgia and Milton at the Georgia Mountain project he owns in part.
The development would additionally pay three-tenths of a cent toward school taxes for each kilowatt hour, while using no town services.
Blittersdorf plans to net-meter 10 percent of the output, which could be sold to Green Mountain Power (GMP) customers at a discount. As of now, only GMP customers could avail themselves of that due to current law. But Blittersdorf is hoping that the law will change so that net metering is allowed across utilities.
Irasburg residents are on the Vermont Electric Co-op system now.
A few people raised concerns Monday night about people being forced off their land during blasting, excessive noise, wind turbine syndrome, and other issues.
Blittersdorf responded to them by phone Tuesday.
Whenever rock is blasted, a safety zone with a 1,000-foot radius is required, and opponents at Georgia have tried to use that to their advantage, Blittersdorf said.
Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, was one such opponent. She knew that if she could delay construction, Blittersdorf would miss his deadline to receive federal tax credits, Blittersdorf said.
A family had their kids camp out in a tent inside the blast zone, and Blittersdorf said he had to get a restraining order to keep them safe during blasting.
“They went and put kids in harm’s way to try to stop us, which I think is really irresponsible,” he said.
For that issue, Blittersdorf admittedly used a law firm where House Speaker Shap Smith is employed, but Smith had nothing to do with the restraining order.
At the Irasburg meeting, a woman said Blittersdorf was fined at Georgia Mountain for illegal blasting, but Blittersdorf said that’s not true. He was fined $10,000, but it was because the contractor’s crew was not allowed to work on holidays. They inadvertently worked on Bennington Battle Day, he said.
Irasburg opponents accused the developer of being in bed with Governor Peter Shumlin.
Blittersdorf has contributed to Shumlin’s campaign, as he has contributed at the maximum level to Bernie Sanders’ campaign. He contributes to both because they believe global warming is real and are committed to doing something about it, Blittersdorf said.
“If $4,000 can buy someone who has a million-dollar campaign, that’s pretty sad,” he said.
As for wind turbine syndrome, Blittersdorf said, “It’s not scientifically valid.”
Like the placebo effect can have a good effect on one’s health, the “nocebo effect” can be harmful, Blittersdorf said. “If you have it in your head something’s going to happen, you can get results,” he said.
As for noise, sound has been monitored at the Georgia Mt. site and found to be within acceptable ranges – 45 decibels outside and 30 inside. A library with no one talking produces about 35 decibels, Blittersdorf said, whereas the Irasburg selectmen’s meeting Monday night was probably about 70 to 80 decibels.
The main person complaining about noise at the Georgia Mt. site has been found to be dishonest, Blittersdorf said. She has reported noises like jet engines when turbines were not even running, he said.
As for complaints that wind turbines don’t work, Blittersdorf wonders how he can be the greedy, rich guy spoken about in Irasburg if his turbines don’t operate.
Wind power does contribute to baseload power, despite what opponents said, Blittersdorf said, as will be proven with ISO capacity credits which are only given to baseload sources.
As for Blittersdorf raking in the dough in tax credits, the credits are only for energy produced. The project would be eligible for 2.3 cents in tax credits for each kilowatt generated over ten years, he said.
In contrast, solar projects get up-front credits for building the project, while gasoline is so heavily subsidized and incentivized that customers pay less than $4 a gallon for a product that should cost $10.