SDG&E sued over Rim Rock wind project

NaturEner, which owns and operates a trio of wind power projects in Montana, said Dec. 20 that it has sued San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), a Sempra Energy (NYSE:SRE) subsidiary for allegedly backing out of a promise to invest $285m in the Rim Rock Wind project.

NaturEner, which has offices in Montana and San Francisco, is part of Spain-based Grupo NaturEner, S.A., said that the California utility had agreed to invest in the 189-MW Rim Rock project and to purchase renewable energy credits. SDG&E planned to use Rim Rock to meet its obligation under California law to use renewable power. SDG&E has been purchasing renewable energy credits from Rim Rock since the project began operating 16 months ago, NaturEner said.

NaturEner’s lawsuit, filed in Montana District Court in Toole County, argues that the utility’s actions are motivated by buyer’s remorse, because of the falling price of renewable power. 

“SDG&E is obligated to purchase, at a contractually fixed price, the renewable energy credits generated by Rim Rock over the next 20 years,” the wind company said in the lawsuit. “Since the purchase agreement was signed, the market price of renewable energy credits has dropped precipitously from the price that SDG&E agreed to pay,” NaturEner argues in the lawsuit.

NaturEner, which has addressed concerns about the risk to Montana raptors, claims that SDG&E is using the Avian Conditions as pretext for escaping its contractual obligations.

Rim Rock Wind Farm is located on 21,000 acres of private land near Cut Bank, MT.  The project began commercial operations in December, 2012. When running at full capacity, Rim Rock generates enough energy to power approximately 60,000 homes from its 126 Acciona 1.5 MW wind turbines.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.