November 8, 2012

Big Blue project closer to startup

Jodelle Greiner - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel | November 8, 2012 |

GUCKEEN – With a court case behind it, Fagen Inc. of Granite Falls can move forward with the Big Blue Wind Farm, which involves 18 wind turbines in Faribault County.

“The last one’s going up today,” Ron Fagen of Fagen Inc. said Wednesday.

The company now owns the wind farm south of Guckeen in Jo Daviess Township.

Fagen Inc. was the original contractor of Big Blue Wind Farm, owned by Exergy Development Group of Idaho. In a lawsuit filed in Minnesota District Court in Yellow Medicine County, Fagen Inc. contended that Exergy was unable to pay back money Fagen Inc. had advanced it and, according to the agreement the two companies signed, ownership transferred to Fagen Inc.

Now that a judge has ruled in Fagen Inc.’s favor, the company can move on with the project, Fagen said.

“No party can seek to invalidate the transaction,” said Jennifer Johnson, chief financial officer for Fagen, Inc. “We’re glad about that.”

“The Blue Earth thing is resolved,” said Fagen, adding there will probably continue to be some disputes over money, but “the ownership thing is behind us.

He said there is still some electrical work to be done, but the company is on track to meet its deadline.

“The turbines should all be up and operational by December,” Fagen said.

A recent rumor circulated at a Faribault County Commission meeting about the project “blowing fuses.” When asked if Fagen Inc. has been blowing fuses while checking its turbines, Fagen laughed.

“No, not blowing fuses,” he said. “We haven’t turned any on.”

But the company will test the wind towers soon to make sure they are ready to go online before the end of December. The firm has to meet a Dec. 31 deadline to stay eligible for a federal investment tax credit, which is necessary when building a multi-million dollar project, Fagen said.

“Wind projects all over the United States of America are treated the same way,” he said.

When they do start operating the turbines, Fagen believes those living nearby will be pleasantly surprised.

“These spin slower because of the extra long blades,” he said. “Latest and greatest design; they’ve gotten quieter over the years. I don’t think they’re noisy at all.”

Concern has been expressed because the towers have displayed no lights to alert pilots.

“Yes, they do have lights,” Fagen said, “but per FAA regulations, they won’t be energized until they are online permanently.”

When the towers are powered up, the lights will go on too, and there are safeguards in place until then.

“Helicopters have GPS and everything pops up on the screen,” he added. “Helicopter guys know where they’re at, they’re not going to fly through them.”

Fagen Inc. will keep one employee in the area full-time to manage the wind farm and the company plans to subcontract maintenance “to another company that will have permanent employees there.”

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