Wind projects pulled and few in the works; state's goals still on track

Published: Mar. 26, 2018 at 8:19 AM EDT
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Another wind-turbine project was recently pulled in Vermont and few wind-turbine projects are in the permitting process, but leaders say the state’s renewable energy goals are on track.

After years of fighting, Ron Holland has breathed a sigh of relief after the Kidder Hill Community Wind project was canceled. That means he won’t see turbines go up behind his home in Irasburg.

"To have one of those turbines in your backyard degrades the quality of the environmental experience for people that live close to the project," Holland said.

The Kidder Hill Community Wind project would have put up two 500-foot wind turbines. Holland says he's one of 37 people who would have lived within a mile.

"The basic opposition comes from a place of community," said Holland. "You have to understand the scale of these projects and the scale is not appropriate to put into a residential community."

The Kidder Hill developer was AllEarth Renewables. David Blittersdorf, the CEO, says he pulled the project because it has become too difficult to put up turbines in Vermont.

"With our goal of hitting 90 percent renewables by 2050, we have to go faster than we were before," said Blittersdorf. "But now we're being slowed down due to the rules and the present administration that wants to see that some things don't happen."

AllEarth Renewables has one other wind energy project in Vermont in the works called Dairy Air Wind in Holland. But that's it. Blittersdorf says he's trading Vermont for states that will let him do his part to stop climate change.

"How come we started to lead on renewables? I want to make Vermont the example of how to do this," said Blittersdorf. "Instead, we are going backward really, really fast right now."

Blittersdorf says the strict regulations aren't just affecting him.

"As far as I know from other people out there, no one else is considering wind in Vermont and the chilling effect of the sounds rules and all these other things is really happening," Blittersdorf said.

A representative of the Public Utilities Commission says besides Blittersdorf’s project in Holland, the only other plan in the permitting process is a small wind turbine project. If developers don't have fans of wind projects, what does that mean for the state's energy goals?

Representatives of the Burlington Electric Department, Green Mountain Power, Vermont Electric Co-op and Washington Electric Co-op say they’re meeting the current renewable energy goal of 55 percent.

Riley Allen, the Vermont Department of Public Service deputy commissioner, says as far as meeting the renewable energy goals, he's not concerned about the apparent lack of wind turbine projects. He says they're on a good path to the next goal of 75 percent in 2032.

In the meantime, local community members like Holland say they'll make their voices heard.

"Cohesive communities are very influential in determining public policy," said Holland. "You have to speak up; you can't be passive about these things."