Library from Minnesota
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.
The State of Minnesota is considering a bill that would increase the State's renewable mandate to 40% including a 10% solar carve-out. The bill is in conference but it appears rural legislators in both parties are reluctant to pass it through. Cartoonist Marie McNamara created this political cartoon to emphasize the mentality of lobbyists at the Capitol and the effect of the 40% mandate on Minnesota rate payers and businesses.
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."
Xcel opposes both the solar standard and the increase to 40 percent renewables by 2030, Regional Vice President Laura McCarten said. "We really would be concerned about arbitrarily setting a new higher level without having gone through a more thoughtful assessment of what the implications are." If Xcel relies more on wind energy, it would have to spend more money to make sure everyone gets enough power on windless days.
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.
This letter was sent to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in reference to the Goodhue Wind project proposal now known as the New Era Wind Farm. New Era explains that it has initiated discussions to assign its power contracts to a third-party wind project developer and site. It further requests that any further evidentiary procedures with respect to the the project before the PUC be placed on hold. It appears from the letter that the project will be sold or canceled.
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.
The 171-turbine, 280-megawatt project - which would have been the largest wind project in Minnesota - was reduced to a 58-turbine, 116-megawatt development by eliminating many of the turbines that had been targeted by critics. Issues remain before the project will break ground. Per Thursday's approval, Gamesa must submit an avian and bat protection plan.
The most significant blow to the project may have been delivered last week, when PUC staff filed briefing papers. Staff recommended that the commission deny the requested amendments or table the request, require an avian and bat protection plan to be created and - perhaps most importantly - initiate potential revocation proceedings "since the permittee has not commenced construction."
The plug has reportedly been pulled on what could have been the largest wind project in Minnesota history. EDP Renewables, formerly Horizon Wind, recently mailed project participants in Goodhue, Rice, Dodge and Steele counties letters informing them that the initial contract period was up and it would not be renewed.
PUC chair Beverly Heydinger listed several hurdles. It's not clear whether the project's new ownership changes its status as a community-based energy development ...New Era's contract with Xcel Energy to purchase power is in question, as is its construction timeline. Nor is it clear that it can build the project and abide by restrictions to protect eagles that could be required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission took another pass Thursday in deciding the fate of the controversial New Era wind project in Goodhue County. The commissioners voted unanimously to re-open the certificate of need docket, which was previously approved by the PUC in June 2011.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously Thursday, Feb. 28, to re-examine the 78-megawatt New Era Wind Farm proposed for the area around Belle Creek, Zumbrota and Goodhue townships.
The delay is just the latest in a string of setbacks for the project, which ran into resistance as soon as it was introduced four years ago. Turbines were originally expected to be spinning by the end of 2011. Representatives for the developer acknowledged the project was taking longer than anticipated and that they remained uncertain how soon construction could begin if regulatory hurdles were overcome.
An embattled wind energy project proposed for rural Goodhue County is getting another chance to show state regulators that it is taking adequate precautions to avoid killing nearby nesting bald eagles. ...The commission also will consider whether the project can keep its status as a community-based project. A PUC staff report recommended the commission show why status should not be revoked.
The staff members recommended reopening the power purchase agreement docket New Era signed with Xcel Energy, ruling that the project is not a community-based energy development (C-BED) and asking the developer to "show cause" why the project's certificate of need should not be revoked.
On Thursday, farmers who bought a wind turbine from Renewable Energy in Excelsior saw a victory in court when a judge ordered the company to temporary halt future sales and open its financial books.