STATEMENT OF ISSUE
Has Freeborn Wind satisfied the requirements in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 216F and the criteria set forth in section 216E.03, subdivision 7, and Minnesota Rule 7854.0500 for a Site Permit for the proposed Project?
SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS
The Administrative Law Judge concludes that Freeborn Wind has failed to demonstrate that the proposed Project will meet the requirements of Minn. R. 7030.0040, the applicable Minnesota Noise Standards. Therefore, the Administrative Law Judge respectfully recommends that the Commission either deny Freeborn Wind’s Application for a Site Permit, or in the alternative, provide Freeborn Wind with a period of time to submit a plan demonstrating how it will comply with Minnesota’s Noise Standards at all times throughout the footprint of the Freeborn Wind Project.
Based on the evidence in the hearing record, the Administrative Law Judge makes the following:
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. Freeborn Wind is an affiliate of Invenergy LLC (Invenergy). Invenergy is a large-scale energy developer headquartered in Chicago, Illinois.
2. Invenergy has developed, built, owned, and operated many operating wind farms, natural gas facilities, solar projects, and battery storage projects throughout the United States, as well as in Japan, Poland, Scotland, and Uruguay. Invenergy has a development track record of 119 large-scale projects with 12,800 MW of wind energy and over 18,000 MW of total energy projects.
3. Invenergy operates the Cannon Falls Energy Center (CFEC) in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. The CFEC is a 357 MW natural gas combustion turbine power plant that provides natural gas-fired power. All of the electricity generated by the CFEC is committed to Northern States Power Company, d/b/a Xcel Energy (Xcel Energy).
4. Freeborn Wind and Invenergy do not own or operate and have no financial interest in any other large wind energy conversion systems (LWECS) in Minnesota.
5. If approved, Freeborn Wind will develop, design, and permit the Project.
6. Freeborn Wind has entered into an agreement with Xcel Energy whereby Xcel Energy will acquire Freeborn Wind upon conclusion of all development activities and subsequently construct, own, and operate the Project. Xcel Energy will assume the obligations of Freeborn Wind, whether made by the company or imposed by the Commission.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
1. The Commission and the Administrative Law Judge have jurisdiction over the site permit applied for by Freeborn Wind for the up to 84 MW proposed Project pursuant to Minn. Stat. §§ 216F.04 and 14.57-.62 (2016).
2. Freeborn Wind has substantially complied with the procedural requirements of Minn. Stat. ch. 216F, Minn. Stat. § 216E.03 (2016), and Minn. R. ch. 7854 (2017).
3. A public hearing was conducted in a community near the proposed Project. Proper notice of the public hearing was provided, and the public was given an opportunity to speak at the hearing and to submit written comments.
4. An evidentiary hearing was conducted pursuant to Minn. R. 1405.0200-.2400, 1400.5010-.8400, and chs. 7854 and 7829 (2017).
5. The Applicant failed to demonstrate, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the Project complies with Minn. R. 7030.0040. Therefore, the Project does not comply with criteria set forth in chapter 216F and section 216E.03, subdivision 7 of the Minnesota Statutes and chapter 7854 of the Minnesota Rules.
6. The Commission has the authority under Minn. Stat. § 216F.04 to place conditions in a LWECS site permit.
7. The Draft Site Permit contains a number of important mitigation measures and other reasonable conditions that adequately address the potential impacts of the Project on the human and natural environments.
8. It is reasonable to amend the Draft Site Permit to include the amended and additional Permit Conditions and Special Conditions to sections 4.2, 5.2, 5.2.25, 7.2, 7.4, and 11.1 as described at paragraphs 543 through 550 of this Report.
9. Should the Applicant demonstrate that it can meet the requirements of Minn. R. 7030.0040, the Project, with the Draft Site Permit conditions and the amended and additional Permit Conditions and Special Conditions to sections 4.2, 5.2, 5.2.25, 7.2, 7.4, and 11.1, as described at paragraphs 543 through 550 of this Report, would satisfy the site permit criteria for an LWECS in Minn. Stat. § 216F.03 and meet all other applicable legal requirements.
10. With the exception of its noncompliance with Minn. R. 7030.0040, the Project, with the Draft Site Permit Conditions and amended and additional Permit Conditions and Special Conditions discussed above, does not present a potential for significant adverse environmental effects pursuant to the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act and/or the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act.
11. Any of the foregoing Conclusions of Law which are more properly designated Findings of Fact are hereby adopted as such.
Based upon these Conclusions, the Administrative Law Judge makes the following:
Based upon these Conclusions of Law, the Administrative Law Judge respectfully recommends that the Commission deny the site permit to Freeborn Wind Energy, LLC to construct and operate the up to 84 MW portion of the Freeborn Wind Farm in Freeborn County, Minnesota. In the alternative, the Administrative Law Judge respectfully recommends that the Commission provide Freeborn Energy, LLC with a period of time to submit a plan demonstrating how it will comply with Minnesota’s Noise Standards at all times throughout the footprint of the Freeborn Wind Project.
Dated: May 14, 2018