It’s been three months since the Stoneray Wind Farm in western Pipestone County has received permission to build, but construction won’t begin any time soon.
In May, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved a 105 MW large wind energy conversion system near Woodstock for EDF Renewable Energy (EDF-RE) of Minneapolis. Plans stated the farm would be up and transmitting electricity by the end of 2015.
“Although construction activity has not been officially scheduled, we would be able to mobilize and begin construction very quickly once an off-take agreement is in place because of all the work we have done,” said EDF-RE Community Outreach Coordinator Jinnie Hall in an email. “The landowner agreements are already in place for the Stoneray Wind Project, including terms throughout the life of the project and once the turbines have been installed and operational.”
While the PUC permits are good for 30 years, typically only two years is given to a company to put purchase plans into place and begin construction, said Dan Wolf, PUC’s executive secretary. If not, companies must apply for two-year extensions.
EDF has yet to secure a power purchase agreement for the Stoneray project. And that process is “complicated,” according to wind industry expert Lisa Daniels of Windustry, a Minneapolis-based, non-profit promoter of wind energy.
The negotiations to secure an off-take or power purchase agreement (PPA) can take up to a year to complete, she said.
According to Daniels, 99 percent of all wind farm projects obtain a long-term PPA with a utility company. Long-term PPAs are guaranteed revenue contracts ranging from 15 to 25 years with renewal options due to the electricity already having end-users.
Only 1 percent of wind farm projects sell electricity daily or monthly based on user demand, she said.
Along with a PPA, Daniels said wind farms also need a permit from the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator (MISO), allowing a wind farm to connect with the national electrical grid.
Before MISO will grant a permit, it studies the amount of electricity that can be carried on certain lines and where it should go.
“It’s a very prescribed process,” she said. “Like planting a crop for 25 years. It just takes a long time.”
EDF officials are optimistic that an agreement can be made and the Stoneray project will move beyond the planning stages.
“We believe this, along with the strong wind resources in the area, makes this project unique and highly desirable based on its shovel-ready status,” EDF-RE’s Hall wrote.
Stoneray consists of 62 wind turbines located in Rock and Burke townships in Pipestone County and Cameron and Chanarambie townships in Murray County.
Stoneray was originally proposed and permitted to EnXco in June 2005, but was never built. Its sale in 2012 to EDF-RE, a U.S. subsidiary of Energy Nouvelles based in France, required a new PUC permit.
The sale also included Chanarambie Wind Farm near Chandler, whose transmission lines would be used to transmit electricity from Stoneray. Xcel Energy purchases the electricity generated from Chanarambie.
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