The developer behind the controversial New Era Wind Farm has informed the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that it will no longer pursue the permits necessary to build a 78 MW wind farm, located in Goodhue County, Minn.
In a letter to the Minnesota PUC, Peter Mastic, chief manager for New Era Wind Farm LLC, requested that PUC terminate its site permit (which was conditionally granted in 2011) and withdraw its updated avian and bat protection plan, which New Era had re-submitted to the PUC in November 2012.
‘New Era no longer intends to develop a wind energy project in Goodhue County, and respectfully requests that the Commission close all four dockets and all pending matters,’ Mastic wrote in the letter.
Minnesota-based National Wind was the initial developer of the project, originally called the Goodhue Wind Farm. Nonetheless, the project has been the subject of controversy almost from the moment plans were announced in 2008. Citing safety, noise and shadow flicker concerns, local residents vehemently opposed the project, which was planned for over 15,000 acres in rural Minnesota. Despite the acrimony, National Wind had continued to move the project forward, including taking on an equity partner, American Wind Alliance (AWA), part of T. Boone Pickens' Mesa Power.
In December 2011, National Wind was acquired by Indian wind energy developer Trishe Wind Energy. However, its development agreement with AWA was not included in the deal.
Mastic, then CEO of National Wind, left the company in July 2012. In October 2012, Pickens sold his share of the Goodhue project to Mastic, and the project was later renamed New Era Wind Farm.
National Wind declined to comment. However, when contacted by NAW, several wind industry participants noted that the project could be a case study in how not to engage the community.
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.
‘It was never handled properly, and things just snowballed from there,’ comments Juhl.
Others characterize the project as an outlier and not emblematic of the support wind energy enjoys in the state, explains Joe Sullivan, regional policy manager at Wind on the Wires, a regional partner of the American Wind Energy Association.
‘Looking at it from a 10,000-foot level, [the project] paints a picture that is totally at odds with wind energy in Minnesota,’ Sullivan notes. ‘[The project] is an anomaly.’
According to an MPUC spokesperson, regulators will officially close the New Era filing sometime in October.