I. Factual Background; Request to Extend Certificate of Need
This case involves four closely related dockets - an application for a certificate of need to build a 78-megawatt wind farm (now called New Era Wind Farm) in Goodhue County, an application for a site permit for the wind farm, and a request for approval of two contracts to sell the electricity from the wind farm to Xcel Energy. In three earlier orders the Commission granted the certificate of need,1 issued a site permit,2 and approved the contracts.3
All three orders based their determinations on the project's anticipated in-service date of December 31, 2011. The wind farm was not built on schedule, however, and on December 31, 2012 - the last day of the one-year grace period provided under the certificate of need rules – the project owner filed a request to extend the certificate of need’s in-service date for another year, until December 31, 2013.
1. The Commission denies the project’s April 17 request to hold the case in abeyance and its June 18 request for an extension of time.
2. The Commission finds that the project violated the anti-transfer provision of Minn. Stat. § 216B.1612, subd. 3 (c) and that the transfer of power purchase agreements that occurred is prohibited.
3. The Commission declines to recertify the certificate of need due to New Era’s failure to demonstrate that it will comply with the Commission’s orders and due to its failure to show that it is prepared to move forward with the project for which the certificate of need was obtained, including the failure to specify a current in-service date.
4. Within 14 days of the date of this order, New Era shall either surrender its site permit or show cause that it intends to begin construction by August 23 and that its site permit should not be revoked. If the project states that it intends to begin construction by August 23, it shall demonstrate that it is able to begin construction by that date.
5. If New Era makes a filing stating that it intends to begin construction by August 23, it shall provide by that date a more comprehensive response to the Commission’s request in section IV of the March 20 order that it investigate and respond to comments by members of the public alleging deficiencies in its performance on wildlife monitoring and protection issues.
6. If New Era makes a filing stating that it intends to begin construction by August 23, it shall provide by that date a summary of the March 27, 2013 site visit, referred to in its April 17 letter, conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the Energy Facility Permitting Staff of the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
7. The Commission gives notice of its intent to revoke the project’s site permit if it has neither surrendered its site permit nor filed a certificate of need exemption petition by August 23, 2013.
8. This Order shall become effective immediately.