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Kenyon Wind project in doubt after state denies permit extension

A plan to build a wind farm near Kenyon suffered a major setback today after a state commission denied a request for two more years to secure a buyer for energy generated by the project.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission voted down the petition – filed in October by Kenyon Wind, LLC – in a 3-2 vote at its regular meeting in St. Paul this morning. Company officials will need to secure an energy buyer for the 18.9 megawatt project by the end of the year to avoid the expiration of a site permit issued by the commission in 2007, and later extended in 2009.

Commissioners voting to deny the petition argued the company had ample time to find a buyer in the nearly four years since the original site permit was granted.

“At what point do you draw the line and say perhaps this project either was not thought through at the beginning or doesn’t have the right pieces in place to be successful?” said commissioner Betsy Wergin, who with Dennis O’Brien and Thomas Pugh voted to deny the petition. Commissioner Phyllis Reha and chairman David Boyd were the dissenters.

Kenyon Wind’s chief manager John Daniels, Jr. told the commission the company’s failure to find an energy buyer was “largely a matter of the economy and the state of the wind energy industry,” but that conditions looked poised to improve in the near future.

“We think we can get in the ground this next year,” he said.

Members of a concerned citizen’s group were also at the meeting, arguing against the company’s petition.

Representing Citizens for Environmental Rights & Safety, Red Wing attorney Carol Overland argued that a Goodhue County wind ordinance restrictive of large wind development has changed the climate for wind development in the area since Kenyon Wind’s site permit was issued.

“Things have changed since 2006,” she said.

Look to Saturday’s edition of the Republican Eagle for more on this story.