After three years of collecting meteorological information and almost a decade in the planning stages, a Twin Cities company is going ahead with construction of the Stoneray Wind Farm, located primarily in Pipestone County.
An informational meeting will be conducted at 6 p.m., Aug. 14, at the Lake Wilson American Legion. Staff from the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the wind farm and Minnesota Public Utilities will present details on the proposed wind farm that will produce approximately 105 MW of wind power through approximately 55 turbines.
Last month, EDF Renewable Energy (EDF-RE) of Minneapolis, submitted certificate of need and site permit applications to the state utilities commission to construct the wind farm north of Woodstock, in Rock and Burke townships in Pipestone County, and in Cameron and Chanarambie townships in Murray County. The new wind farm is proposed to be operating by the end of 2014.
“We are fairly aggressive in the timeline,” said Melissa Peterson, the wind farm’s project manager.
EDF-RE, a U.S. subsidiary of Energies Nouvelles based in France, purchased EnXco Energy about a year ago. That sale included the Chanarambie Wind Farm near Chandler and plans for Stoneray. Peterson said the EDF-RE has stepped up work on the Stoneray project to capitalize on the U.S. Department of Energy’s wind production tax credit program (PTC). The program is set to expire Dec. 31.
Qualifying wind projects under the PTC program earn 2.3 cents per-kilowatt hour in the first 10 years of operation. Peterson said she did not have exact figures on how much revenue this would mean for the Stoneray project. However, the PTC translates into about $5.2 million in revenue for a windfarm of Stoneray’s proposed size, according to wind industry averages and annual outputs tracked by National Wind Watch, a Massachusetts-based non-profit concerned with the risks and impacts of industrial wind power.
In order to qualify for the wind PTC, EDF-RE must begin construction on the wind farm or, minimally, spend 5 percent of the project’s total cost by Dec. 31. The total cost of the Stoneray Wind Farm was deemed a trade secret in the company’s certificate of need and site permit application with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
“Margins are extremely slim in electricity,” Lisa Daniels, executive director and founder of Windustry, a Minneapolis-based, nonprofit promoter of renewable energy. “They hold their cards pretty close to them to survive the hurdles.”
Spending 5 percent of the project’s total cost by Dec. 31 may be the only way the company would qualify for the PTC, as site and building permits must be received before construction begins, and that permit process averages nine to 12 months to complete, according to Anne O’Conner, Minnesota Department of Commerce spokesperson.
The commerce department provides the research and information for the commission’s final decision, she indicated, including the environmental review (ER) that examines the project’s potential human and environmental impacts and mitigating measures.
EDF-RE’s stepped-up timeframe may be new, but its conceptual plan for Stoneray’s wind farm is not, with some work dating to 2003 when EnXco was still the owner. Recently, EDF-RE representatives received re-approval from the Pipestone County Planning Commission for three meteorological (met) towers that had been constructed by the previous owner, EnXco Energy, a wind energy company that EDF-RE purchased about a year ago, constructed the met towers three years ago, Peterson said. In 2010, EnXco constructed four meteorological (met) towers in Rock and Burke townships to measure wind speed and direction of a potential wind energy project site.
The permit renewal kept in place the towers located in sections 15, 18 and 28 in Rock Township. EDF-RE chose not to renew the permit in section 9 of Burke Township, according to Pipestone County Planning and Zoning Administrator Kyle Krier. The tower has since been taken down.
At that time, no details were released on any future projects until now.
After the Aug. 14 informational meeting, a public hearing has been tentatively scheduled for December, she indicated. O’Conner stated with the final decision on Stoneray’s certification of need and site permit application could be issued as early as March 2014.