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Case about wind test tower in Irasburg continues

IRASBURG – There are no longer any small wind turbines on the Kidder Hill property owned by renewable energy developer David Blittersdorf’.

And he dropped plans to raise two large turbines there.

But a residual case about a meteorological (MET) tower he put up on the property years ago is going to a status conference before state utility regulators to decide what happens next.

The case is over whether a property owner must apply for a certificate of public good for a MET tower, regardless of whether it was originally intended to gather information for research or the information gathered was used for wind energy projects.

Blittersdorf put the MET tower up without a certificate. He later put up two small turbines, which are now removed, and planned for two large turbines, which he decided not to build.

Last week, John Cotter, hearing officer for the Vermont Public Utilities Commission, rejected arguments for summary judgment from both the Vermont Department of Public Service and Blittersdorf.

He said there isn’t enough evidence to rule either way, giving both sides reasonable doubt, and called for a status conference to decide how to move forward in this case.

This legacy case began in 2015 when the Irasburg select board complained that Blittersdorf did not get a certificate of public good for the MET tower. The petition for a MET tower certificate of public good can give local officials a heads up that there is interest in wind resources at a particular site.

Blittersdorf responded, saying that the Kidder Hill MET tower didn’t
need a certificate. He said it was not under the commission’s jurisdiction because he put it up for purely research purposes at the time.

The department asked for an investigation into the matter, which the commission launched Sept. 23, 2015.

The department filed a partial motion for summary judgment on July 1, 2016, to resolve whether Blittersdorf is liable for putting up the MET tower without a certificate.

The department stated in the motion that Blittersdorf’s intent when he put up the MET tower wasn’t relevant, Cotter said. The department stated that Blittersdorf did later use the MET tower’s information as grounds for putting up the two small turbines on his property.

He later took down those small turbines to resolve a separate and unrelated complaint about their siting.

Blittersdorf asked for the investigation to be dismissed.

In his June 22 order, Cotter dismissed the department’s arguments, saying that Blittersdorf is entitled to “the benefit of all reasonable doubts” about the details of why he put up the MET tower.

“No information has been filed that directly demonstrates that Mr. Blittersdorf installed the MET tower for the purpose of assessing the viability of grid-connected turbines, net-metered or otherwise,” Cotter wrote.

The department can’t infer from the erection of the small net-metered turbines and former plans for large turbines that he put up the MET tower just to gather data for those projects, Cotter stated.

Likewise, he dismissed Blittersdorf’s motion for summary judgment.