Reform code need for renewables

The company managing a collection of wind farms in southern Minnesota decided to skip some optional government paperwork for years. When that paperwork became mandatory, the company wasn’t aware of the change, and it continued on with business as usual.

It’s safe to assume that the company, Minwind Energy LLC, which owns the small wind farms in Luverne, Minn., meant no harm. However, the federal government imposed a nearly $2 million fine for not filing the paperwork.

As a consequence, Minwind filed for bankruptcy in early January.

The farms were once used for University of Minnesota research. More recently, Xcel Energy used them for feeding the power into a battery for storage.

While it’s unclear whether Minwind’s situation is isolated or fairly common among small wind utilities, it seems to us that the company got an unfair deal and deserved more protection for the services it was providing.

If federal officials are serious about facilitating renewable energy, they need to reform code so that small, effective operations providing clean power aren’t driven into the ground by unproductive fines.

Minwind’s lawyers have stated that the firm’s owners were “unsophisticated” in regulatory issues. This is likely true, given the small nature of the operation.

When it comes to renewable energy operations, bureaucratic accidents like this one should be handled on a case-by-case basis. In addition to protecting one of our most valuable new industries, this measure would bring a little humanity to the process of regulating
paperwork.