A federal judge has sided with Xcel Energy and vindicated the utility for its 2010 decision to cancel a $400 million wind farm in North Dakota that posed a potential risk to two protected birds.
U.S. District Judge Michael Davis dismissed a lawsuit filed by EnXco, the would-be developer of the Merricourt project, whose wind turbines were seen as a risk to the piping plover and whooping crane. EnXco, a U.S. affiliate of Paris-based EDF Energies Nouvelles, sued Xcel for dropping out of the 100-turbine wind farm, which was never built.
But Davis, ruling in Minneapolis, threw out the case before trial, saying that Xcel had a right to terminate its agreement at a drop-dead date – March 31, 2010 – because EnXco had not yet obtained site permit for the project. That permit later was approved.
EnXco contended that bird-protection issues could have been addressed at the project site near Ellendale, N.D. EnXco said the company already had purchased turbines for the Merricourt project, although Xcel asserted that EnXco deployed them at another wind farm, cutting its losses.
“EnXco is a sophisticated commercial entity that has entered into many projects involving wind projects and other renewable energy,” the judge wrote in an order signed Wednesday and filed electronically on Thursday. “Accordingly, the court can reasonably infer that EnXco is knowledgeable of the varying risks that may arise with respect to such projects.”