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BATTLE OVER WIND RIGHTS HEATS UP

Plans for the next 100 MW of wind in Minnesota are now being disputed even more heavily than before by Kenetech Windpower. The California company, which was not chosen to build the plant, now says it is planning to build its own 79.5 MW wind project on Buffalo Ridge -- using wind rights to the land at the centre of the dispute. At a public hearing early last month for the proposed 100 MW project, to be owned by Minnesota utility Northern States Power (NSP), Kenetech unveiled its competing plans for the first time.xxxAt issue is that NSP has selected Zond Systems Inc to supply turbines and construct a 100 MW wind project on Buffalo Ridge (Windpower Monthly, August 1995). The utility, based in Minneapolis, is attempting to assemble wind rights to land on the ridge to proceed with the project, to be operational in November 1996. The public hearings, held by the state Environmental Quality Board (EQB), are for a site certificate. Two sites are under consideration, which do include some wind rights held by Kenetech, confirms NSP's Glynis Hinschberger. She says she hopes the EQB decision will be issued in October.

But Kenetech has responded by filing its own application for a site certificate, including for wind rights held, it believes, by Windtricity, Zond, NSP and other private parties, says the company's Bud Grebey. He notes it is not public knowledge who owns rights on a parcel, but that Kenetech is asking rights in two areas, northwest and southeast of Lake Benton. "If [NSP] can get a permit for land that is not theirs, we can do the same thing," says Grebey.

Kenetech says it wants to build a plant using 159 of its yet-to-be-built KVS-45 wind turbines, to be on line also in November of 1996. At the public hearing, Kenetech maintained that both its project and the 100 MW NSP proposal could be successfully built in the area. The company was not specific about who would buy the electricity.

NSP is also applying in court for a "declaratory judgement" so that it can use eminent domain -- compulsory purchase -- of wind rights if necessary. Kenetech is arguing that in an unregulated market, NPS should not be allowed to use eminent domain for a "competitor's" wind rights. Kenetech also says the matter should be settled in federal not state court. Hinschberger says she hopes for court a decision soon. NSP is proceeding with final negotiations with Zond. "We stand behind the selectionÉ. I view this as Kenetech is obviously disappointed."

Kenetech is also questioning Zond's ability to complete the project on time, pointing out that Zond has yet to develop the wind turbine it intends use. A delay, says Kenetech, would inhibit future phases of wind construction that Kenetech would like to compete for. Kenetech, however, has yet to build the wind turbine it has proposed for Buffalo Ridge. Public comments on the matter were received at the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) by August 10. The commissioners may then consider the issue as soon as this month.

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