LUVERNE – The 360 investors in a rural Rock County wind energy company stand to lose thousands of dollars after MinWind Energy, LLC., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week in Minnesota Bankruptcy Court.
A voluntary petition was filed with the court Jan. 6 seeking reorganization status for the 11.5-megawatt wind farm. If MinWind’s request is granted, it would relieve the investor-owned energy company of approximately $1.91 million in fines after it was determined MinWind was noncompliant with qualifying facility self-certification filing requirements under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act. The bankruptcy, while it would allow for the wind turbines to be sold, would also preclude investors from getting any financial return on the sale.
Electricity generated from MinWind’s first two wind turbine projects went online in 2002, with power sold to Interstate Power and Light Company. By the end of 2004, seven more wind tower projects were completed in the Beaver Creek area, with power generated from those sites sold to Northern States Power, doing business as Xcel Energy.
Last summer, MinWind filed a petition with the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Committee seeking a waiver of self-certification filing requirements. The petitioners contended their facilities had satisfied all requirements for qualifying facilities status, with the exception of section 292.203(a)(3), since MinWind began producing power, and that “inadvertent error and lack of power sector business acumen” was blamed for their failure to file notices of self-certification.
MinWind contended it had filed all of the necessary reports up until April 2006. The FERC changed its regulations at that time, requiring an owner or operator of a facility to file a notice of self-certification. The requirement was placed on all facilities larger than 1 megawatt, and became effective April 16, 2006.
After hearing the points made by MinWind’s petitioners, the FERC issued its findings in early November, essentially saying MinWind should have been aware of the rules change and that their reason for not filing the proper paperwork was “not persuasive.”
“Although petitioners argue that the failure to make the filing was inadvertent, the fact remains that for more than eight years (MinWind was) out of compliance with the express requirements for (qualified facilities) status,” the FERC report dated Nov. 7, 2014, states.
The commission ultimately granted in part and denied in part MinWind’s request for waiver and directed the wind energy company to make refunds on the time value of revenues collected during the period of noncompliance within 30 days. It was also ordered that MinWind file refund reports with the commission within 30 days.
Within the report, MinWind petitioners said if they weren’t granted the waiver, they would likely have to pursue bankruptcy.
While MinWind officials and investors will not comment on the bankruptcy proceedings, it was noted in the FERC report that they were unaware of the filing requirements until they began working with a third-party turbine repair company last year that had offered to buy the wind turbines for the cost of the remaining debt.
MinWind’s towers had suffered damage in the 2013 ice storm, and the company didn’t have the finances to make the necessary repairs.
The 360 individuals who had invested in MinWind did so by purchasing $5,000 shares. Individuals could purchase as many shares as they wanted, and the one-time public offering led to a sell-out of shares in one night.
MinWind’s Chapter 11 status notes all nine of the MinWind projects filed for bankruptcy Jan. 6. A meeting of creditors was scheduled for Feb. 3, with creditors’ proof of claims due by May 4 and government proof of claims due by July 6.