He began studying wind, taking wind measurements and analyzing wind loads for major construction companies. The business, NRG Systems, became important and successful as wind turbines became a clear option for a renewable source of energy.
Bound and determined to build his own clean energy company, Blittersdorf turned NRG over to his wife and opened up shop as AllEarth Renewables in Vermont. He aimed to build wind turbines, but as the cost of solar panels slipped, and the subsidies and incentives for going solar rose, Blittersdorf realized his future would be with the sun, and the wind would be at his back.
It didn’t take long for him to realize that sun tracking systems for solar modules would be the future of the industry.
Trackers haven’t played a very big role in the U.S. solar market, Blittersdorf said. But they increase the efficiency of solar panels dramatically.
“One of the issues people deal with in putting solar on rooftops is wind load,” Blittersdorf said. “Luckily, I spent my whole engineering career learning how to understand wind.”
Blittersdforf was the brains behind current wind turbine technology. When they first started in the 1980s, wind turbines quickly destroyed themselves with friction, he said.
His job was to engineer a system that would preserve itself.
He mounted the turbines in cement casing so they wouldn’t move unless they were told to. He installed hydraulics in order to achieve controlled movement.
“It was like driving your car with the breaks on,” he said.
That’s how he was able to preserve the wind turbines, and that’s how he can preserve the solar tracking devices as well.
“Our competition hasn’t figured this out yet,” Blittersdorf said.
In addition to moving and responding to the wind and direction of the sun, the trackers have a self-preservation mode that causes the panels to go flat if the wind sensors detect extreme gusts or wind speeds, Blittersdorf said.
While wind has always been his passion, Blittersdorf is happy to have turned his attention to the sun. He said permitting and space requirements and limitations make wind a challenging technology to grow with right now.
So, for now, Blittersdorf said he’s happy to combine his love for wind with solar to achieve his energy goals.
AllEarth Renewables is gearing up to expand beyond Vermont into nearby Northeastern states.
Pictured: Allearth’s AllSun solar tracker.