Library filed under General from Minnesota
When proposed, the project was heralded by renewable energy proponents and those who saw it as a source of jobs and income for Stearns County's rural economy. But some residents strongly opposed it, concerned about the visual effect of as many as 60 turbines.
“To be truthful, we just started too late. When wind (energy) was first coming out, it was easy. Now they just pile more and more studies on, and bats and bird studies, just piled on, more red tape. Typical government, more forms,” said Scott Hoek, one of 11 co-owners of the wind project.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (Commission) issued EcoHarmony West Wind LLC Site Permit on February 3, 2010 to construct a 58-turbine, 116-megawatts project. On April 22, 2013, the Site Permit was amended to allow an additional two years to commence construction and obtain a power purchase agreement (or other enforceable mechanism). Failing to do so, Gamesa filed notice that it would not be pursuing the project. The content of Gamesa's notice is provided below. Both Gamesa's letter and the May 8, 2015 letter by the Commission inquiring about the project's status can be accessed by clicking the links on this page.
Geronimo Wind Energy's proposed Paynesville Wind farm was issued a site permit and a Certificate of Need (CN) from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on January 26, 2011. The project would consist of 63 wind turbines totaling 95 megawatts to be located on approximately 15,000 acres in Stearns County, Minnesota. Paynesville Wind has been unable to secure a buyer for its energy. This letter was issued by the company this month. The content of the letter is provided below. The original can be accessed by clicking the links on this page.
Wind developer Geronimo Energy confirmed Wednesday it’s attempting to sign new leases with landholders at Black Oak wind farm in response to a deadline in state law that voids a lease if a project doesn’t begin commercial operation within seven years of the original contract signing date.
Shortly after the research concluded, investors learned about a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission policy change from 2006 that they hadn’t been following. It required power purchase agreement farms that produce less than 20 megawatts of energy to fill out paperwork that certified them to do so. But when the farms began 13 years ago, this paperwork was optional. After eight years of unfiled paperwork, the farms were hit with the civil liability and subsequently had to file for bankruptcy.
St. Cloud VA spokesman Barry Venable says the contractor was commissioned to provide a fully operational wind turbine and has failed to do so… The VA has paid a majority of the $2,300,000 cost to build the wind turbine built by JK Scanlon Company of Falmouth, Massachusetts.
“This has been going on, just hanging there, sitting there,” said Barb Wenninger, a Cornish Township resident and longtime opponent of the Sibley Wind Substation turbines. “We seem to have shown violations of their permit, and no action has been taken. That’s what it seems to us, like nothing is being resolved.”
Building — and trying to fix — the turbine already has cost taxpayers about $2.3 million, 99 percent of which the VA has paid to the private contractors responsible. And please note that does not include more than $325,000 the VA has not accrued in energy savings since the turbine went online in April 2011. In other words, this project alone has cost taxpayers more than $2.6 million. It still does not work, nor have any funds expended been recovered.
The plaintiffs claim this ordinance is pre-empted by Minnesota Statute § 216F.02(b), "which prohibits local governments from enacting complete bans on businesses and homeowners using SWECS [small wind energy conversion systems] to generate electricity."
"The St. Cloud VA is a hospital, and our focus is on our patients and we like to think that we treat our veterans very well here," said Barry Venable, a public affairs officer for the VA in St. Cloud. "We're embarrassed that this turbine does not operate as advertised."
What was supposed to provide up to 15 percent of the power to the St. Cloud VA Health Care System has turned into a black eye in the sky. ...Nearly $2.3 million went blowing in the wind, and there seems to be no end in sight to needed repairs. It’s also unclear whether the VA will be compensated for lost savings or if the turbine will ever work properly.
Almost three years after it was built, a wind turbine at the St. Cloud VA Health Care System has become a towering boondoggle. The VA system paid about 99 percent of the $2.3 million cost for the turbine. All that has bought is a turbine that supplied a tiny fraction of the power it was expected to generate. Since August 2012, the turbine has supplied no power at all. ...“You fix one thing and something else pops up. It’s extraordinarily unreliable.”
The PUC approved the initial site permit for a 301 megawatt project in 2010, but the amended request reduces the nameplate capacity to 200 megawatts. Additionally, the PUC's recent decision allows Pleasant Valley to switch from a combination of 1.5 MW and 2.3 MW General Electric turbines to a uniform layout of 2.0 MW Vestas, which are 328 feet tall with a rotor diameter of 328 feet. The GE turbines had the same rotor diameter, but the towers stood 262 feet tall.
The EcoHarmony wind project received its permits in February 2010 ...the 280-megawatt project would have been the largest wind development in state history. However, the project layout was overhauled in early 2013, shrinking to 116 megawatts. The company's plans changed again this fall when Gamesa notified local project participants that the project was dead.
"Willmar’s experience is not unusual. There are several stories very similar to this where municipal utilities were sold on the benefits of owning and operating their own wind turbines only to learn after the fact that keeping the turbines running can be a nightmare, even with a warranty plan in place.”
In northern Minnesota, an electric utility is proposing a 500 kV, cross-border transmission line that would let it tap Canadian hydropower under a similar arrangement. Minnesota Power says the Great Northern Transmission Line would allow it to balance intermittent power from its North Dakota wind farms with dispatchable power from Manitoba hydro facilities.
"...I regret to have to inform you that National Wind/Trishe Wind Energy has made the difficult decision to terminate the High Country Energy project," wrote National Wind and Trishe Wind Energy President Vivek Mittal. "Despite our best efforts, we have not been able to sign on enough contiguous acres necessary for the planned 150 (megawatt) project or to win the broad community support essential to bringing a wind project to successful commercial operation."
Following a minutes-long public hearing before a large crowd on Oct. 10 in the state capitol the commissioners unanimously voted to revoke New Era's site permit and certificate of need. New Era has faced unprecedented public criticism since the project was first proposed in 2008, ultimately spending more than $15 million in a fruitless attempt to gain its state and local permits to build the wind project between Goodhue and Zumbrota.
Dan Juhl, a lifelong Minnesotan and founder of Juhl Energy, recalls the project being ill-conceived from the beginning. Despite a Minnesota Department of Commerce report hailing Goodhue County as a prime location for wind farm development without significant transmission build-out, he says the project's "novice" developers gave little thought to how a utility-scale wind farm would affect the fairly populated area.