Articles filed under General from Minnesota
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.
Opposition to the wind farm from citizens groups centered largely on impacts to wildlife, including eagle and bat populations. The PUC rejected New Era's plan to protect the animals, causing a delay in construction.
New Era Wind Farm LLC told the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in a letter dated Sept. 6 that it "no longer intends to develop a wind energy project in Goodhue County" and asked the commission to close all pending matters related to the project.
Local critics of the $180 million wind project, representing opposition groups Goodhue Wind Truth and the Coalition for Sensible Siting, say they spent a January morning in St. Paul detailing their concerns to two FBI investigators. Developers have spent more than $15 million seeking state permits, according to a filing at the PUC, while local opposition has spent six figures in the protracted legal battle.
The controversy often pitted neighbor against neighbor, but the battle appears near an end. New Era recently missed two deadlines with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which is expected to hold permit revocation hearings in October or November. That could put an end to an unprecedented five-year battle that's included five lawsuits. "It's like tearing a scab off in our community."
A troubled wind energy proposal in Goodhue County has missed a deadline imposed by state regulators to make its intentions known, and opponents of the project are preparing to celebrate its defeat. ...The PUC is expected to move to revoke the permit.
Xcel agreed to terminate the PPA contract without receiving any form of damage compensation. The two entities have been arguing, through PUC filings, over the arrangement for nearly two years. Previous Xcel paperwork has suggested that New Era could be held responsible for "significant" damages due to its alleged breaches of contract.
Xcel Energy and the New Era Wind Farm have ended their power purchase agreement, making it even more unlikely the controversial Goodhue county wind project will be built.
The developer, New Era Wind Farm, could try to revive the $180 million project, its attorney said. But Thursday, PUC commissioners voted unanimously not to extend the company's legal authority to build the 48 wind towers in the county. The clearly frustrated commissioners cited ongoing questions about the company's ownership, the status of its contract with Xcel, and its failure to come up with a plan to protect birds and bats from turbine blades.
After lengthy discussion during Thursday's PUC hearing - including a few testy exchanges between commissioners and New Era attorney Todd Guerrero - the PUC unanimously approved five motions that will make it difficult, if not impossible, for the project to move forward in its current form.
Jim Alders, Xcel's director of regulatory affairs, said Thursday that New Era has "failed to meet the requirements" of the 2010 contract, which required PUC approval. Attempts since December to cure the defaults have failed, prompting the recent action.
Jim Alders, Xcel's directory of regulatory affairs, said Wednesday that Xcel had been committed to the agreement but informed New Era in December that it needed to resolve outstanding issues with the project by early May. "We gave them [New Era] until now to cure those problems and they have not," he said. "We finally reached the point where the contract gives us the right to terminate."
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is waiting to hear from Xcel Energy and New Era Wind in Goodhue County about what changes have taken place in the controversial wind project's power purchase agreement.
New Era was given until Sunday May 12 to resolve a delay in the production of a 78-megawatt wind farm in Goodhue County that is causing the company to default on an agreement to sell generated power, said Jim Alders of Xcel Energy.
"We are VERY unappreciative of this symbol being used by the USPS for Earth Day," Marie McNamara recently emailed postal officials in Washington. "Thanks for putting us on record as strongly objecting to the symbol of industrial wind turbines as a postmark. Thanks for putting us on record as wanting to see the postmark go away immediately."
A letter from the owner of a proposed wind farm to regulators shows his frustration in the permitting process and a willingness to sell off assets of his investment. "New Era has no confidence that due process for this project will ever end, nor that an ABPP (Avian and Bat Protection Plan) will ever be approved, however comprehensively and carefully drafted," said Peter Mastic, owner of New Era Wind Farm, in an April 17 letter to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
"New Era initiated discussion with NSP (Xcel Energy that was going to buy the wind power) to assign its power contracts to a third-party wind project developer and site," he wrote in a letter dated Wednesday. Three companies are interested and could get turbines turning this year or 2014. "Each of these projects is sited in a community that is far more receptive to wind energy than is Goodhue," he wrote.
U.S. District Judge Michael Davis dismissed a lawsuit filed by the developer of the 100-turbine Merricourt project, which remains unbuilt amid lingering fears that whooping cranes and piping plovers will be slashed to death by its turbine blades.
Jaunich solicited funding from individuals and groups for the purchase of pieces of membership in Averill Wind, a company that Jaunich created to develop and operate a wind energy project in Clay County, Minn. To induce these investments, Jaunich misled investors about the project’s status.