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Citing interconnection delays, wind developer asks Minnesota PUC for more time  

Credit:  By Kerry Bleskan, SNL, www2.snl.com 9 March 2012 ~~

A Minnesota wind developer has asked state regulators for a two-year extension of its construction permit because of interconnection issues with the Midwest ISO.

When the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved the 280-MW EcoHarmony West Wind project in February 2010, its developer expected to finish construction by December 2010. Instead, the project, in Fillmore County, Minn., has been bogged down in interconnection issues at the Midwest ISO that have made other arrangements “impossible,” including construction, financing and finding a buyer for the power, the developer said.

As approved, the construction permit requires certain studies to be completed and construction to begin within two years. The developer, EcoHarmony West Wind LLC, asked the PUC to extend that deadline by another two years and to change the in-service date. It also asked for the permit’s expiration date to be extended from 2040 to 2042.

“The primary reason for the delay in meeting the permit conditions stems from unforeseen and long delays regarding resolution of issues relating to the project’s interconnection to the transmission grid,” EcoHarmony said. The problem is that EcoHarmony disagrees with the Midwest ISO’s filed generator interconnection agreement, including the cost allocation plan and the physical location of the interconnection point, and the parties are waiting for FERC to resolve the dispute. A ruling is expected in the first half of 2012.

“Importantly, resolution of the dispute will not affect whether the project will be able to connect to the grid,” just how much that will cost, the company said.

A number of wind projects have suffered delays because of interconnection group “restudies” under way at the Midwest ISO, the company said. A 2009 FERC decision denying a Midwest ISO attempt to allocate the costs of a new line to wind generators “triggered a cascade” of such studies, EcoHarmony said, and the results are still being finalized.

“The interconnection issues in question here are significant, and until resolved, which will be soon, EcoHarmony West Wind cannot finalize its project costs or commit to a delivery date for energy produced from the project,” the company said. “The lack of resolution of these transmission issues has made it impossible for EcoHarmony West Wind to secure a PPA or finalize financing to allow construction to move forward to date.”

The PUC has granted similar extensions for wind facilities experiencing similar problems, EcoHarmony said, including projects in Brown, Cottonwood and Pope counties, Minn. Regulators were sympathetic to the argument a year ago, when it was made by Comfrey Wind Energy LLC, the developer of a 31.5-MW project. Commissioners in that case adopted the recommendations of the PUC’s staff, which said the Midwest interconnection process had been “very lengthy and uncertain.”

Gamesa acquires company

Gamesa Energy USA recently purchased the ownership interests of EcoHarmony West Wind LLC, the project developer told the PUC. The Gamesa Corporación Tecnológica SA subsidiary has started working on the interconnection issue and on financing and power purchase arrangements, with the goal of completing all preconstruction work in two years, the company said.

Company ownership has changed, but the company has not, EcoHarmony argued, so the permit does not have to be transferred as a result of the acquisition. The project developer was previously owned by a subsidiary of Morse Energy, which sold a 1.4-GW portfolio of projects to Hudson Clean Energy Partners LP in 2010.

Source:  By Kerry Bleskan, SNL, www2.snl.com 9 March 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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