One of Vermont's renewable energy pioneers is giving up on his home state — at least for now. David Blittersdorf, founder of Williston-based AllEarth Renewables, is set to announce Wednesday that he is abandoning the Kidder Hill Community Wind project, a two-turbine installation in Lowell and Irasburg. Furthermore, Blittersdorf said he is not pursuing any more wind or solar projects in Vermont.
"I have a sense of urgency I've never had before," Blittersdorf said. He turned 60 last year, which sharpened his focus on fighting climate change. He's no longer willing to deal with a regulatory process that seems to him designed to limit and delay. "I've gotta pivot out of state," he said. "As a Vermonter, I hate this, but I have to do it."
Last June, the state Public Utility Commission rejected the Kidder Hill application, ruling that it lacked crucial information. The decision forced the project back to the drawing board.
At the time, Blittersdorf said he would come back with answers to the commission's concerns. But under Gov. Phil Scott, the panel has been unfriendly to big wind, and that made approval of Kidder Hill a long shot at best. "He got an effective moratorium on wind without having to label it a moratorium," Blittersdorf said.
He tells a similar story about solar arrays. "The cost of permitting has tripled, and the length of the process has tripled" within the last decade, he said, noting that solar in Vermont has gone into a deep decline since early 2017. So he will stop beating his head against Vermont's regulatory wall and focus his energies elsewhere.
Some consider Blittersdorf nothing but a profiteer, and they will applaud his departure. But he has a point: Vermont used to be a leader in renewable energy and is now falling behind. We will each have to decide if that's a Vermont we can be proud of — and a Vermont that deserves its green reputation.