A Minneapolis-based development firm that has spent years working on a controversial plan to build a 78-megawatt wind farm in Goodhue County has apparently been taken out of the picture.
Nancy Nolley, a spokeswoman for Dallas, Texas-based Mesa Power Group, said on Friday that a development agreement between National Wind and a Mesa subsidiary, American Wind Alliance, was terminated in August.
National Wind has worked with the American Wind Alliance since 2008 to build a 50-turbine, $180 million wind farm spanning 32,000 acres in the Belle Creek and Minneola townships in southeastern Minnesota.
Nolley said the American Wind Alliance, backed by well-known entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens, would now develop the Goodhue project on its own.
The shift came as a surprise to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which on Thursday sent a letter to the American Wind Alliance asking why a Sept. 17 filing no longer made reference to National Wind.
The filing, a scheduled complaint report, was submitted on American Wind Alliance letter head, a break from previous filings which referred to AWA Goodhue LLC as a National Wind project.
The Sept. 17 letter was signed by Peter Mastic, who was named National Wind’s president and chief development officer in September 2010, and became the company’ s chief executive in January 2011.
Nolley said Mastic no longer worked for National Wind, but also did not work for the American Wind Alliance. Mastic signed the letter “on behalf of AWA Goodhue, LLC,” which Nolley said was accurate.
Dan Wolf, a spokesman for the PUC, said Friday that it wouldn’t be clear if the change in development teams would have any material impact on previous or pending approvals until the agency received additional information.
What’s next for National Wind is now unclear.
Nolley said the company had been acquired by the Trishe Group, a renewable energy firm based in India, in December 2011. The Trishe Group website describes the company as “one of the top five wind farm developers in the world in terms of capacity developed or under development.”
An email to Trishe went unanswered Friday, and Joe Jennings, a spokesman for National Wind, would not comment when asked whether the company had been acquired. A sign on National Wind’s Second Avenue offices described it as a Trishe Group company, however.
“I’m not at liberty to discuss anything until we have a statement to make,” Jennings said Friday. Jennings said National Wind was preparing a statement that would be released next week.
Whoever is in charge, several barriers are still standing in the way of the long fought-over project.
The PUC has yet to sign off on an Avian and Bat Protection Plan and officials in Belle Creek and Minneola haven’t agreed on road permits the company needs to begin construction.
Goodhue County Commissioner Ron Allen said the county may also consider rescinding a resolution supporting the project’s inclusion in the state’s Community Based Energy Development program.
CBED projects are supposed to receive special benefits to encourage local ownership, though their benefits have been limited by recent changes in state legislation.
There is also the question of funding and the possible expiration of the wind production tax credit, which will disappear at the end of this year unless Congress votes to continue it.
Lisa Daniels, the executive director of St. Paul-based Windustry, an advocacy group, said the loss of the tax credit could make it a financial impossibility.
“If the PTC isn’t renewed, that could be a show-stopper for this project,” she said.
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