Minnesota commission revokes permit for 20-MW Sibley Wind project

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on Sept. 18 revoked a site permit approval for Sibley Wind Substation LLC, with the company saying it may come back later with another application.

In September 2008, the commission issued a wind-farm site permit to Sibley Wind Substation. In October 2011, the commission granted Sibley a permit amendment, which included extending the deadline for commencing construction to two years from the date of the amendment.

In December 2013, members of the public raised concerns over the project’s impact on bald eagles and other avian species and requested that Sibley undertake migration studies to quantify the potential impact. Sibley undertook an eagle-monitoring survey in the spring of 2014. A follow-up survey was done in the fall. Eagles were observed near the project area.

On May 12 of this year, the commission ordered Sibley to file an avian and bat protection plan documenting the work done to date and identifying procedures to mitigate potential impacts to bird and bat species during construction and operation of the project. On May 15, Sibley filed a draft avian and bat protection plan and the results of its eagle-monitoring surveys. The company stated that more data was needed to quantify the risk to eagles and proposed to coordinate with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a protocol for additional surveys.

On June 24, the commission sent Sibley a letter asking it to file: a summary of the scope of any further avian studies and the projected timeframes for completing those studies; and a status update on the company’s draft avian and bat protection plan and the anticipated timeframe for a final plan.

Sibley then filed a letter requesting that the commission cancel its permit while the company worked to resolve issues related to avian studies. The letter stated that the company understood that a new site permit would be required for construction to proceed. On Aug. 27, the commission met to consider the matter, with a written revocation order issued on Sept. 18.

Said the order: “The Commission agrees that revocation is appropriate. It will advance the statutory purpose of ensuring compatibility with environmental preservation by permitting full development of avian- and bat-protection issues, and it will advance the statutory purpose of efficient use of resources by ending piecemeal examination of this project.”

The request to revoke the permit is on the letterhead of WESCO Wind, a subsidiary of STAR Distributed Energy LLC. Said the revocation letter from Steven G. Estes, company President: “We respectfully request our permit for the Sibley Wind Project be canceled while we work out a solution that will meet everyone’s requirements relating to avian studies on the project. We do feel the avian issue was something beyond our control and is a forced majeure event. Sibley Wind understands that it will need to seek a new site permit in order to proceed with the Project.”

The company contact information is: 922 South 500 West 90, Markle, IN 46770, Phone: 260.694.6240, www.wescowind.com.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.