Vermonter promotes wind power in Congress (Burlington Free Press)

By Erin Kelly
Free Press Washington Writer

WASHINGTON -- Congress could help create thousands of "green" jobs and reduce global warming by doing more to boost wind power throughout the nation, the founder of a Hinesburg, Vt., wind energy company told a Senate panel Tuesday.

David Blittersdorf, founder of NRG Systems and chief executive officer of Earth Turbines, urged lawmakers to create more tax credits for producing and using renewable energy and make it easier for consumers to share turbines to power their homes, farms and businesses.

Wind energy, which provides about 1 percent of America's electricity, could supply about 20 percent with supportive federal policies, he said.

In 2005, the U.S. became the world's largest market for wind energy after lagging behind Germany and Spain for 10 years.

"Policies aimed at grabbing onto this market by building skilled workers and new supply chains could be a boon to U.S. manufacturing, which has lost over 2.5 million jobs between 2001 and 2004," Blittersdorf told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

NRG is the leading manufacturer of wind measurement systems and wind turbine control sensors for the wind utility industry worldwide. Earth Turbines makes small wind turbines for homes and small businesses.

The home wind energy industry has been crippled by the relatively low cost of fossil fuels, a lack of federal incentives and nonsupportive policies at the local, state and federal levels, Blittersdorf said.

"With effective government policies and incentives in place, the U.S. small wind industry could grow at 40 (percent) to 60 percent per year compared to 14 (percent) to 25 percent now," he said.

The Vermont entrepreneur was invited to testify by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who serves on the environment committee. This year the Senate passed legislation by Sanders and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., to create a $100 million program to train workers to design, make and install clean energy systems. That legislation was approved by the Senate as part of a comprehensive energy bill that still must come before both houses of Congress for a final vote.

Sanders also is lead sponsor of a sweeping global warming bill that would mandate an 80 percent reduction by 2050 in greenhouse gases produced by power plants, factories and automobiles.

"I know some have suggested that if we move forward aggressively, severe economic dislocation will take place," the senator said. "Let me respectfully disagree. While there will be ... economic dislocation, dislocation that Congress must address ... we can create millions of good paying jobs, jobs that will help us create a stronger economy."