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Goodhue County wind-project developer acquired by Indian company

ZUMBROTA – National Wind, the longtime AWA Goodhue project developer, was acquired in December by Trishe Wind Energy, an international company based in India, but it appears the move was never officially communicated to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

The $180 million project has been seeking permits for three years.

The PUC is investigating the changes, as well as other possible discrepancies in filings with the state-permitting entity.

There are four ways a project can lose its site permit, which was approved in June 2011, but a PUC spokesman says applying those standards can’t be done yet because the facts “are still being established.”

The AWA Goodhue wind project proposed near Zumbrota has a 32,000-acre footprint. Whereas a typical wind project is approved in six to 12 months, the 48-turbine project has been seeking state approval since 2008.

While PUC staff began its investigation this week after receiving a series of calls and emails from Goodhue County residents, a spokesperson for the T. Boone Pickens-owned Mesa Power Group in Dallas confirmed the details Wednesday for the Post-Bulletin.

National Wind CEO Peter Mastic was let go by Trishe in July in what appears to have been part of mass layoffs. Messages left at National Wind were not returned this week, and Mastic and other National Wind employees have declined media requests for about a year.

However, Mastic made a routine electronic filing Monday to the PUC saying no complaints were received for the AWA Goodhue project in August. He signed the paperwork that includes an American Wind Alliance – a Pickens subsidiary – letterhead and included a contact number to Mesa Power in Texas.

Mesa Power’s secretary wasn’t familiar with anyone by Mastic’s name.

Nancy Nolley, a Mesa Power spokesperson, confirmed the acquisition of National Wind by Trishe as well as Mastic’s job status but couldn’t explain Monday’s PUC paperwork.

“I don’t have that information,” Nolley said. “I think the key is that Mesa Power Group and (Trishe) will continue developing the AWA Goodhue wind project. That’s all I’m able to comment on at this point.”

Power-purchasing program
If the state decides these oddities aren’t enough to pull the project’s permit, it could still result in increased calls for review of the Community-Based Energy Development designation, a 2007 state program that requires energy companies, such as Xcel, to purchase the created electricity at increased rates to encourage local partnerships. AWA Goodhue was approved for the program by the PUC in early 2010, about 14 months after the Goodhue County Board unanimously offered its resolution of support.

Project critics, including some members of the state Legislature, have already been urging the state to conduct a review of AWA Goodhue’s 2010 designation based on earlier changes in the development. With the urging of townships, Goodhue County recently began looking into legal ramifications of rescinding its 2008 resolution of support.

Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, has worked with Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, and Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, have unsuccessfully tried to clarify the C-BED statute in previous legislative sessions. Kelly says the latest developments make it a more urgent issue for 2013.

“We were never trying to shut down wind,” said Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing. “We were just trying to maintain the integrity of the C-BED statute. Now we’re talking about taking it from Minnesota to Texas and from Texas to out of the country. It’s bordering on the ridiculous now.

“We have to call for the Legislature to act. Now it’s far over-reaching what the intent was.”